From the blog

The story of discovering and treating cancer

August 25, 2023 Radiotherapy

When it comes to dealing with cancer, going from recognizing symptoms to getting treatments like surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy isn’t a simple straight line. It’s more like a journey that needs a good understanding of the process and some careful thinking. That’s what this article is all about – giving you a clear and simple picture of the usual steps that cancer patients go through, starting from noticing signs to getting a diagnosis.

Now, let’s explore in depth the investigative process and the tools and techniques that medical professionals use to diagnose cancer. Doctors use tools like mammograms, CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans. After all this, it culminates the biopsy follows – where they grab a small sample to confirm and get a definite answer. All these moves pave the way for different treatment options to come into play.

Recognizing Signs and Symptoms

The process of identifying cancer starts by recognizing subtle signs and symptoms that may indicate an underlying condition. These symptoms include unexplained weight loss, persistent fatigue, changes in bowel or bladder habits, and the presence of unusual lumps or growths. It is crucial to seek medical consultation promptly when experiencing these early manifestations, which will start the diagnostic process.

Diagnostic Imaging Techniques

  • Mammography is an X-ray technique used to detect breast cancer early. It’s recommended for women over 50 and those with a history of breast cancer. It’s safe and effective, with low risks. Talk to your healthcare provider to schedule a mammogram.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scans utilize X-ray technology to generate cross-sectional images of the body. It provides detailed insights into the internal structures, aiding in the identification of abnormal growths, tumors, or masses.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) employs powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body’s internal organs and tissues. It is particularly useful in assessing soft tissues, making it an essential tool for identifying tumors and their extent.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans involve the use of a radioactive tracer that accumulates in metabolically active tissues, such as cancer cells. The resulting images help oncologists pinpoint areas of heightened activity, aiding in the detection of malignancies and their spread.

Definitive diagnosis

A biopsy involves the extraction of a small tissue sample from the suspected area. This sample is then examined under a microscope by a pathologist to determine whether cancerous cells are present. Biopsies are instrumental in confirming the diagnosis and guiding subsequent treatment decisions.

Treatment Options

The treatment of cancer patients involves a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals, each with their own expertise and role in the patient’s care. This team may include oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, nurses, and social workers, among others. Together, they work to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to the patient’s specific needs and circumstances. By collaborating and sharing their knowledge and skills, the team can provide comprehensive care that addresses all aspects of the patient’s health and well-being.

  • Surgery is one of the main treatment options for cancer. It involves the removal of the tumor or cancerous tissue from the body. Surgery is often used in conjunction with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, to ensure that all cancer cells are eradicated. The type of surgery used depends on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the location of the tumor. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible while preserving healthy tissue and minimizing side effects.

  • Chemotherapy entails the use of potent drugs to target and destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells. Administered orally or intravenously, chemotherapy aims to halt cancer growth, prevent spread, and potentially achieve remission. The treatment course is carefully tailored to the specific cancer type and stage.

  • Radiotherapy, also known as radiation therapy, employs high-energy radiation beams to target and damage cancer cells’ DNA. This modality effectively shrinks tumors and prevents their growth. Modern advancements, including the integration of AI, enhance the precision of radiotherapy, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.


The integration of AI in oncology, including radiotherapy, has brought about a new era of personalized cancer treatment. AI algorithms analyze patient data to optimize treatment plans for maximum effectiveness while minimizing negative side effects. This combination of medical expertise and technology emphasizes the significance of ongoing learning and adaptation in the field of oncology.


The process for an oncology patient involves recognizing symptoms, diagnostic imaging, definitive diagnosis, and the initiation of treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or a combination of these. This requires a collaborative effort between medical professionals, patients, and cutting-edge technology.


Author: Remus Stoica, MD, Radiation Oncologist 

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