|Labelled diagram of a cell undergoing|
apoptosis. 18 Dec 2006 by Emma Farmer
... updated 2014-03-07This is speculation. Pure speculation. I am not a doctor, researcher, academic or politician. I just read a lot.
Is cancer piecemeal evolution?
We know that cancer is uncontrolled cell growth. The process that causes cells to die naturally gets turned off. This natural process is called apoptosis. From Wikipedia: Apoptosis...
Excessive apoptosis causes atrophy, whereas an insufficient amount results in uncontrolled cell proliferation, such as cancer.As we eat better (verses starvation), have fewer predators and accidents and cure diseases, we live longer than our ancestors. But that evolution is never uniform. Parts of us live longer with little or no change to other parts. The more uniform and advantageous the changes though, the longer we live and thus the more we reproduce and pass on the traits to our offspring. The longer we live, the more knowledge and perspective we accumulate that can be passed on to others.
Most cancers don't seem to be associated with a virus, bacteria, fungus or other parasite. Of those that are, we don't know if the foreign organism is causative or just opportunistic. Some of the most prevalent cancers are pretty clearly at least promoted, if not caused by, cell damage (necrosis) such as lung cancer from smoking and skin cancer from sunburn.
When cells are damaged, the body rushes resources to the site for repair. Extra red blood cells carry oxygen and other nutrients thus causing redness (inflammation) often seen around the area. Platelets provide framing to rebuild tissue. Phagocytes and other antibodies attack anything they deem foreign.
Do biopsies accelerate tumor growth?
The only way to know for sure if something is cancerous is usually with a biopsy. Small, well defined tumors like skin tumors may be removed entirely and examined for cancer. In others, a biopsy needle is used to remove tissue in the suspected area for examination under a microscope. Often many samples, up to 15 or more, are taken, thus causing a great deal of damage. If there's no cancer at all, the body's normal healing process eventually repairs the damage and all is well. If cancer is detected and aggressively treated, usually the tumor is removed and the area or the entire body is subjected to radiation and/or chemotherapy in an effort to destroy any undetectable cancerous cells remaining. If successful, the damage is repaired and many years of life remain.
But cancer treatment rarely results in a complete cure. Remission is achieved by eliminating enough damaged cells for the body's natural processes to clean up the rest. However, the biopsies and some forms of treatment traumatically damage thousands of additional cells, which can further overwhelm the body's already strained resources.
Should we decide before any biopsy what our intentions are if cancer is found?
- Watching cancers evolve using ‘liquid biopsies’ April 8, 2013, Cancer Research UK
- Doctors Debate Criteria For Prostate Biopsy March 7, 2011, NPR