Gain a Better Understanding of Cancer

Cancer is one of the most complex diseases known to modern medicine. There are over 100 types of cancer, each one named according to the type of tissue it affects and the underlying genetics. Understanding the general biology of cancer is crucial for nurses interested in working in oncology. This knowledge helps them reassure and educate anxious patients and family. An online RN to BSN program is one way a registered nurse (RN) with an associate degree can gain a greater understanding of cancer and its treatments.

What Is Cancer?

The U.S. National Cancer Institute describes cancer as unabated growth of abnormal or damaged cells that negatively affect the function of vital neighboring organs or systems. Cancerous cells can accumulate into a mass of tissue known as a tumor that develops its own vascular system. These new blood vessels connect the blood stream to the tumor, which taxes system resources and eventually spreads damaged cells to other parts of the body. Cancer is a genetic disease caused by faults in genes that control everything from tumor suppression to DNA repair. Because of this, researchers label cancers according to the underlying gene mutation (e.g., BRCA1 and BRCA2 for breast cancer).

Learning the Biology of Cancer

Nurses in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs learn the biology of cancer. Courses in these programs cover the chemistry, cell biology and etiology of human cancer. For instance, a class may focus on the characteristics of tumor cells and the malignant transformation of healthy cells. Classes may explore the causes of cancer, including tumor viruses, chemical and environmental carcinogens, radiation, oncogenes and genetics. Online RN to BSN programs offer classes on the biology of cancer and offer working nurses the flexibility and convenience they need to continue their education while maintaining their current professional responsibilities.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to cancer. The most important skill that students learn in an online RN to BSN program is how to stay abreast of the latest research and gain the skills they will need to find, analyze and communicate new information to their patients. This foundation is essential for a nurse looking to build a long-term career in oncology nursing.

Learn more about the CSUSM online RN to BSN program.


Comprehensive Cancer Information. (n.d.). National Cancer Institute

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