- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
How Does Cancer Kill
In 2008 I lost my spouse of fourteen years to cancer. It was diagnosed in August of 2007, and on June 6th, 2008 at 11:37 PM it was all said and done, all within the sprint of ten months. As anyone who has lost someone they love to this disease knows, nothing on earth so calculatingly degrades the quality of life and potential for longevity as does cancer.
Cancer And The Five Year Plan
Cancer Is The #2 Cause Of All Deaths
Only outdone by heart disease, cancer is the leading cause of death. One third of all those diagnosed with cancer, will perish within five years of that diagnosis. It would seem this monster has a will of its own and harbors secrets many cannot understand as to how it actually causes death. Even though cancer is on the decline and surviving it is on the rise in the USA, hearing the word "cancer" from your doctor can change everything you know about your life, and in a split second. The moment I heard the word in regard to my spouse, I set out to find information on exactly "how" cancer kills. This is what you will discover within this article. Possibly by better understanding it, cancer will hold less power within human day to day living.
Cancer: Benign or Malignant
Let's start out by gaining a better understanding of the terms surrounding cancer. When we hear the word "benign" we mostly understand that this is a good word when it pertains to cancer. A less welcome term is "malignant" which tells us something unpleasant is in the works.
How Does Cancer Get Started
The human body works on a cellular level with the "cells" being the manufactures of good or bad health. In a healthy human the cells grow and divide, then die in a natural and normal progression. However, sometimes, the cells get out of whack and a malfunction in production takes place. This malfunction can cause the cells to grow far too rapidly, or they don't die off as they should. These malfunctioning cells create masses of unneeded tissue, or tumors, that are going to be either "benign" or "malignant."
Good And Bad Cancer Terms
- Benign Cells - This indicates a cell(s) is noncancerous, and most often not dangerous.
- Malignant Cells - This indicates a cell(s) is cancerous, thus absolutely dangerous.
Why Cancer Can Spread Quickly
Cancer begins its rapid attack on the body when malignant cells reproduce and grow large enough in mass to reach the lymph nodes. Because the lymphatic system harbors all of the highways these vessels travel upon to reach every organ found in the body, once cancer finds them, its rapid spread is immanent. In this same way, should cancer make it into the bloodstream, every cell of tissue found in the body can also be attacked, potentially forming new tumors throughout any and every system found inside and out of the body.
Cancer Is More Than One Disease
Yep, you read that right. Cancer is more than just one disease, and more correctly it is an entire army of related conditions. These conditions break out into three main battalions; carcinomas, leukemias and lymphomas, and sarcomas. Let's see just what each of these has to tell us.
1. Carcinomas - This is what we mostly see and experience within the family of cancers. These are cancers that attack the cells of the body that line or cover organs. Carcinomas include cancers that are found in;
Mayo Clinic On Cancer
- Cancer - MayoClinic.com
Cancer — Comprehensive overview covers cancer symptoms, causes and treatments.
2. Leukemias and Lymphomas - These are cancers found in the blood.
3. Sarcomas - For the most part, we find these battalions of cancer cells in younger people. They include cancers that attack the muscles and connective tissues, as with bone cancer.
How Does Cancer Actually Kill You
How cancer ends someone's life depends on the tissue it has attacked, and the vital systems it destroys. The number of ways this happens is as vast as the number of cells in the human body. To give you some idea as to how it kills in certain locations within the body, below is a very small list of possibilities.
How Much Do You Know About Cancer Factsview quiz statistics
How Cancer Kills The Brain, Lungs, Digestive System, Bones or Liver
- In The Brain - Cancer kills when it causes a seizure or stroke.
- In The Lungs - Cancer kills by reducing the amount of oxygen the body receives.
- In The Digestive System - Cancer kills by stopping or greatly reducing the amount food nutrients the body can extract, thus starving you to death.
- In The Bones or Liver - Cancer kills by manufacturing far too much calcium (hypercalcemia), which then pollutes the blood, which leads to heart arrhythmia, kidney failure, and can even cause the total breakdown of the nervous system.
Why Do Doctors Surgically Remove Cancer
Why Do Doctors Amputate Body Parts That Have Cancer
Amputation and/or organ removal may seem to be an extreme manner in which to treat any patient, but when it comes to cancer's ability to metastasis (spread), it is truly a life saving measure. In organs that are not required to sustain overall life—eyes, breasts, testicles, etc.—the localized cancer is not the life threatening concern. What is of concern, however, is the possibility that the cancer will metastasis throughout other vital systems. This is why doctors who specialize in cancer treatment (oncologists) would rather remove these parts before the cancer can spread system wide. Living without a body part presents far less risk than does the spread of cancer to any of the vital life-sustaining systems found within our bodies.
The Stages Of Cancer
What Is Cancer Staging
According to the direct definition of cancer staging provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI):
"it defines the severity of a person's cancer based on the extent of the original (primary) tumor and whether or not cancer has spread in the body."
The data that follows is derived from the NCI.
Staging (TNM) in Cancer
The TNM System For Determining Stages Of Cancer
What Is The Cancer Staging TNM System
"The TNM system is the most popular staging tool used to determine just how extensive a cancer is or has become. The TNM is based on the extent of the tumor (T), the extent of the spread to the lymph nodes (N), and the presence of distant metastasis (M). Then, a number is added to each letter to indicate the size or extent of the primary tumor and the extent of cancer spread." —NCI—
The information within the tables below is derived from the NCI.
In reference to the term "situ" in the following table:
Situ is the Latin word for site, or in this application, the "location" of a tumor.
Primary Tumor (T) In Stages Of Cancer
Primary tumor cannot be evaluated
No evidence of primary tumor
Carcinoma in situ (CIS: Abnormal cells are present but have not spread to neighboring tissue; although not cancer, CIS may become cancer and is sometimes called preinvassive cancer)
T1, T2, T3, T4
Size and/or extent of the primary tumor
Regional Lymph Nodes (N) In Stages Of Cancer
LYMPH NODES (N)
Regional lymph node cannot be evaluated
No regional lymph node invovlement
N1, N2, N3
Involvement of regional lymph nodes (number of lymph nodes and/or extent of spread)
Distant Metastasis (M) In Stages Of Cancer
Distant metastasis cannot be evaluated
No distant metastasis
Distant metastasis is present
Cancer Stages Defined
Carcinoma in situ
1, 2, 3
High numbers indicate more extensive disease: Larger tumor size and/or spread of cancer beyond organ in which it first developed to nearby lymph nodes and/or organs adjacent to the location of the primary tumor
Cancer has spread to another organ
Two Sample Cancer Staging Diagnosis
Examples for understanding the staging tools in the tables above are;
- Breast cancer classified as T3 N2 M0 would indicate that the tumor is large and has spread outside of the breast to the nearby lymph nodes, however not to the other parts of the body.
- Prostate cancer classified as T2 N0 M0 would indicate that the tumor is located only in the prostate and has not spread to lymph nodes or any other parts of the body.
Examples derived from National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Understanding How Cancer Kills Concluded
I am certain that this article could go on for many, many more pages, and probably into infinite numbers before we ever gain a clear and total understanding for cancer. For me, knowing a little more about just how it attacked and ended the life of the person closest to me, returned a tiny amount of clarity to my life. I hope the information you find within the words printed here help you or someone close to you regain some of theirs. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
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