What is cancer?

Cancer is a group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. These cancer cells, which can originate almost anywhere in the body, can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. 

What are the different types of cancer?

The main types of cancers are: carcinoma, sarcoma, lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma.

  • Carcinomas are the most common types of cancer. They arise from the cells that cover external and internal body surfaces such as the skin, lung, breast, and colon.

  • Sarcomas are cancers arising from cells found in the supporting tissues of the body such as bone, cartilage, fat, connective tissue and muscle.

  • Lymphomas are cancers that arise in the lymph nodes and tissues of the body’s immune system.

  • Leukemia is cancer that starts in immature blood cells that grow in the bone marrow and causes abnormal blood cells to accumulate in large numbers in the bloodstream.

  • Myeloma is a cancer that develops in the plasma cells of bone marrow.

What causes cancer?

Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA, a substance in every cell that directs all activity of the cell.  Usually when DNA becomes damaged, the body is able to repair it; however, some times it is not repaired and the cell becomes abnormal.  Scientists are working to better understand what causes DNA to become damaged.  Some people inherit damaged DNA, which accounts for inherited cancers. More often, though, a person’s DNA becomes damaged by environmental factors or individual behaviors such as smoking.

What are the signs and symptoms of cancer?

The signs and symptoms vary depending on the specific kind of cancer, but there are some general signs and symptoms that may indicate a need for testing. These include fatigue, a sore that does not heal, nagging cough, pain, unexplained weight loss, fever and changes on the skin.  Although there could be other reasons for these signs and symptoms, anyone experiencing these should consult their physician.

Are all tumors cancerous?

No. Some tumors are benign (noncancerous) and do not spread to other parts of the body. Cancerous tumors are called malignant.

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors can be negated, such as factors in the environment or lifestyle choices, and others, such as age, family history and race, cannot.

What are risk factors for cancer?

Risk factors vary by kind of cancer. For example, someone who has used tobacco products has a greater risk of developing lung and/or mouth cancer.

What are treatment options for cancer?

Standard types of treatment for cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biologic therapy. These treatments may be used alone, but often combined to maximize the patients’ long-term survival. Surgery and radiation therapy are considered local treatments, as they target the cancer cells in the tumor and near it. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biologic therapy are systemic treatments, meaning they travel through the bloodstream reaching cancer cells all over the body. Patients should work closely with their Oncologist to determine the best individualized treatment options.

What is staging?

Staging is the process of determining how far the cancer has spread.  It is important to know the stage of the cancer before determining which treatment options are best.  Most often, physicians use the TNM system for staging.  This system gives three key pieces of information: 

  • T describes the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread to nearby tissue and organs.

  • N describes how far the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

  • M shows whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other organs of the body.

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are studies of new or experimental treatments in patients.This type of study is offered to eligible patients when there is reason to believe that the treatment being studied may offer benefits to the patient, such as improved outcomes or side effect management.  There are three phases of clinical trials a treatment must complete before it is eligible for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Phase I is to study the best way to give a new treatment and study its safety. It is often the first time the specific agent has been tested in a human, outside a laboratory. Phase II is designed to see if the treatment works. Phase III involves large numbers of patients and divides patients into two groups—a control group and the group receiving the new treatment.

What is remission?

Remission is a decrease in or disappearance of signs and symptoms of cancer. In partial remission, some, but not all, signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body.

Is there a cure for cancer?

Today, there is no cure. Tremendous scientific advances have significantly extended patient survival rates, and many patients today will never have recurrence of their disease.  However, even after successful treatment, there may remain cancerous or precancerous cells in the body.  Cancer patients, must maintain a high level of vigilance for the rest of their life, as the risk still remains.

What is community-based cancer care?

Community-based cancer care integrates all aspects of outpatient cancer care, from laboratory and diagnostic imaging capabilities, to chemotherapy and radiation therapy in treatment centers located within patients’ communities. It is based on the concept that providing convenient, high-quality care closer to patients and their support networks aids the maintenance of quality of life and improves patient adherence to therapy, a crucial element in the treatment process.

What are the benefits of community-based cancer care?

The convenience of community-based cancer care enables patients to access the most advanced cancer technologies in one location within their communities. This helps eliminate the burden of extensive travel to distant or multiple locations.  In addition, an integrated setting facilitates the close coordination of all aspects of the patient’s care. It also allows patients to be near their supportive circle of friends and family during their treatment.

Do I need a referral to see an oncologist?

Although it is not required, many patients come to Arizona Oncology for the first time through referrals from other doctors. Cancer is usually first suspected or detected by primary care physicians, gynecologists, internists, pathologists, surgeons, or others.

Another consideration is your insurance coverage. Some insurance companies require that you have a referral from your primary care (or other) physician before seeing a specialist. If this is a requirement of your insurance company, please make sure that your other doctor has provided a referral before scheduling your first appointment.

For more information about what to expect on your first visit, click here.

What will my insurance cover?

This varies greatly, depending on the type of insurance coverage you have. At Arizona Oncology, financial counselors are available to discuss your insurance benefits, and what your insurance company will or will not cover. They will verify your coverage and pre-authorize medical procedures on your behalf, if required by your insurance company.

For more information about your insurance coverage and how Arizona Oncology can help with your insurance considerations, click here.

When I arrive at my first appointment, what can I expect?

The physicians at Arizona Oncology see patients on an appointment basis. You will find your first visit to be comfortable and informative. When you arrive for your first appointment, please be sure to check in with the receptionist for helpful information and direction to the next area.

For more information about what to expect on your first visit, click here.

Who is Arizona Oncology?

We are Arizona’s largest independent medical practice exclusively devoted to the care of cancer patients. We bring highly trained oncologists, technologies, treatments, and supportive services to local communities, so cancer patients no longer need to travel long distances to receive today’s best available cancer care.

For more information about Arizona Oncology, click here.

View our Physicians profiles, click here.

I just paid this bill. Why did I receive a new statement?

Our payments go directly to a lockbox in Dallas, Texas. For this reason, payments can take as long as two weeks to post. We would advise you to check your bank to make sure the check has not cleared prior to calling about your statement. If you receive a statement for the same amount the following month after your check has cleared, please be sure to call us so that we can research this.

My statement does not match the Explanation of Benefits I received from my insurance. Why is this?

If you are being charged a smaller amount than your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) stated, this could be caused by one of several reasons, but primarily because your insurance may deny specific items, and apply them to patient responsibility. At Arizona Oncology, we make every attempt to alleviate the burden from you, our valued patient. If an item is denied, our dedicated Patient Account Specialists will do everything in their power to appeal the denial. When we receive payment on the part of the claim that denied, a separate bill may be sent out for your portion. Resolution of the issue that caused the denial can sometimes take months, or even years, to resolve.

If my charges occurred over a year ago, why am I just now being billed?

Your claim may have been denied initially for several reasons; Coordination of benefits problems, non-covered drugs, information needed by your insurance plan, etc. Depending on the issue we are having with your specific insurance plan, receiving payment can take sometimes take up to a year or more.

My secondary should have paid this bill. Why am I receiving a statement?

Most likely, you are receiving a statement from us because your secondary does not cover certain aspects of the visit. This could range from office visits to injections. Occasionally, some insurance companies will cover Medicare’s coinsurance amounts, but not deductible amounts. You may want to check what your specific plan covers prior to calling us. If a claim has crossed over from Medicare to your secondary plan, this will occasionally cause your claim not to bill from our office directly. If you have received a statement, and have reason to believe your claim was not billed to your secondary insurance, or that this amount has been billed to you in error, please give us a call so that we can correct this as soon as possible.

Why did I receive this statement when I have insurance?

There are several reasons you may have received a statement, beginning with some of the reasons listed above. Other reasons may be that the insurance information we have for you is incorrect, invalid, your claim did not bill to the insurance due to a computer error, etc. If you feel you have been billed in error, please call us as soon as possible, and we will be more than happy to assist you.