What Pharmacists Need to Know About Solid Tumors ::

There are two general types of cancer – one that affects the blood and another characterized by solid tumors. Solid tumors can be malignant or benign, and the treatment for solid tumors is often different from that of cancer of the blood.

Physicians can treat both types of cancer with chemotherapy and radiation. At the same time, solid tumors can also be treated with surgery, and stem cell therapy can be used for cancer of the blood. Solid tumors can take hold anywhere in the body – muscles, bone, or internal organs.

Mesothelioma, for example, is a cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Sarcoma is a general term for cancers that form in the bone. Lymphoma is a cancer that forms in the lymph nodes. Cancers can form in the breast, ovaries, prostate, kidneys, pancreas, and all the other organs. Solid tumors can also develop as a result of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for blood cancers.

Tumor Grades

Tumors are described along a continuum, from well-differentiated at one end, to poorly or undifferentiated at the other. Tumors with cells that look very much like normal cells and spread slowly are labeled well-differentiated. Tumor cells that look abnormal, without the usual cell structures, are labeled poorly differentiated or undifferentiated.

Solid tumors are classified into different grades based on the abnormality of their cells and how quickly they spread. There are a total of four grades used to describe tumors:

Grade 1 – tumor cells are very similar to normal ones and spread slowly

Grade 2 – tumor cells contain more abnormalities, some cell differentiation, proliferate more quickly than grade 1 cells

Grade 3 – poor tumor cell differentiation and spread more quickly than grade 2

Grade 4 – no cell differentiation at all and look very different from normal cells

Other Classification Systems

Some types of cancers, however, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, use different classification systems.

Physicians classify breast cancer cells, for example, using three different methods – by how fast the cancer cells are dividing, the presence of tumors in the milk ducts, and the size and shape of the nuclei of the tumor cells. Each classification uses a numerical score from one to three, one being cells that are most differentiated, and three being least.

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