Understanding Cancer

What is Cancer?

Normally cells grow and reproduce in an orderly and controlled way that keeps the body healthy.

When a cell becomes old or damaged it usually dies, but sometimes the system goes wrong and the cell is allowed to keep on dividing until a lump called a tumour starts to form.

There are two types of tumours, benign and malignant.

Normally cells grow and reproduce in an orderly and controlled way that keeps the body healthy. When a cell becomes old or damaged it usually dies, but sometimes the system goes wrong and the cell is allowed to keep on dividing until a lump called a tumour starts to form. There are two types of tumours, benign and malignant.

Benign tumours are made up of cells that are similar to normal cells. They only cause problems if they get too big and uncomfortable or release hormones. Some benign tumours become unsightly or may press on other organs in the body.

Malignant tumours are made of cancer cells. Cancer cells from malignant tumours can also spread to other parts of the body and grow into new tumours. A cancer that has spread has metastasised.

There are over 200 types of cells in the body so there are over 200 types of cancer, and each cancer is named after the area the cell came from. Each organ of your body can have several kinds of cancer.

Where a cancer starts is called the primary cancer and if it has spread into nearby tissue it’s called locally advanced cancer. An example of this is a lung cancer spreading into the lining of the chest, or ovarian cancer spreading into the lining of the abdomen. Cancer cells that are carried through the lymphatic system or the blood stream to other parts of the body are called secondary cancers or metastases.

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The Patient Pathway


First Specialist Appointment

At the first specialist appointment you will meet with your specialist radiation oncologist (RO) to discuss the proposed radiotherapy treatment approach and answer any questions and concerns you may have.

Orientation

At the treatment planning appointment a patient care specialist (nurse or radiation therapist) will explain the procedures in more detail and answer any concerns that you might have about ARO or your treatment.

Planning

During the days following your orientation and treatment planning appointment our team of experts (physicists, radiation therapist planners and your radiation oncologist) work together to develop the ideal treatment plan for you. This involves a highly sophisticated planning software system and review process to guarantee safe and effective delivery of treatment. Depending on the site and complexity of the treatment, this stage can take up to two weeks.

First Day of Treatment

You’ll need to arrive 10-15 minutes before your allocated treatment time so that we can greet you and to give you time to get changed for your treatment.

If you are driving, we recommend you enter Gate 3, 98 Mountain Road and drive up the ramp to the mid level car park. Please walk across the link bridge to Auckland Radiation Oncology (ARO). Please report to the ARO reception desk. See location and parking for more information.

During Treatment

Weekly reviews with your radiation oncologist or one of our patient care team will be conducted to monitor any side effects and provide on-going support and advice as required.

Last Week of Treatment

An appointment will be scheduled for you to meet with a member of our patient care team to ensure appropriate care is organised after your last treatment visit. This may include regular monitoring of blood results, appointments for dressings and management of side effects.

Following Treatment