Cancer is a general term used to describe a disturbance of cellular growth and refers to a group of diseases and not a
single disease entity. There are currently more than 150 different known types of cancer. Because cancer is a cellular
disease, it can arise from any body tissue, with manifestations that result from failure to control the proliferation and
maturation of cells.
There are four main classifications of cancer according to tissue type: (1) lymphomas (cancers originating in
infection-fighting organs), (2) leukemias (cancers originating in blood-forming organs), (3) sarcomas (cancers
originating in bones, muscle, or connective tissue), and (4) carcinomas (cancers originating in epithelial cells). Within
these broad categories, a cancer is classified by histology, stage, and grade.
Through years of observation and documentation, it has been noted that the metastatic behavior of cancers varies
according to the primary site of diagnosis. This behavior pattern is known as the “natural history.” An example is the
metastatic pattern for primary breast cancer: breast-bone-lung-liver-brain. Knowledge of the etiology and natural
history of a cancer type is important in planning the patient’s care and in evaluating the patient’s progress, prognosis,
and physical complaints.
Cancer centers may focus on staging and major treatment modalities for complex cancers. Treatment for managing
adverse effects such as malnutrition and infection may take place in short-stay, ambulatory, or community settings.
More cancer patients are receiving care at home because of personal choice and healthcare costs.
Fecal diversion: postoperative care of ileostomy and colostomy
Lung cancer: surgical intervention
Psychosocial aspects of care
Radical neck surgery—laryngectomy: postoperative care
Total nutritional support
Patient Assessment Database
Depends on organs/tissues involved and stage of disease.
Refer to appropriate plans of care for additional assessment information.
Weakness and/or fatigue
Changes in rest pattern and usual hours of sleep per night; presence of factors affecting
sleep, e.g., pain, anxiety, night sweats
Limitations of participation in hobbies, exercise, usual activities
Palpitations, chest pain on exertion
Changes in BP, fluctuations in heart rate
Stress factors (financial, job, role changes) and ways of handling stress (e.g.,
smoking, drinking, delay in seeking treatment, religious/spiritual belief)