What is Cancer?
In simple terms, cancer is a fault within the individual cells of the body. This fault allows the cells to divide and therefore multiply without control, which can lead to the formation of tumours. These primary tumours can spread to distant sites. The secondary tumours that appear in distant locations are made up of the same sort of cells as the primary tumour, regardless of where they spread to. So a primary tumour in the lung that spreads to the kidneys is still a lung cancer tumour even though its location is far removed. This process of movement is referred to by Oncologists as metastasis.
Cancer has evolved unique characteristics (hallmarks) which enable it to bypass the body’s natural processes for infection control. These hallmarks are complex but essentially allow the cancer to prosper despite the bodys own immune system or the methods we all have for eliminating infection.
Cancer is therefore often described as a disease of proliferation. It is this ability to multiply and spread throughout the human organism that leads to problems for the individual as other organs become comprised by these metastasised tumours and the individual patient slowly succumbs to an increasingly stronger disease and a decreasing ability to perform normal biological tasks.
Why are there so many different types of Cancer?
Cancer is as discussed above, essentially a fault within the body itself. The faults often lie deep within our genetic makeup. Some of these faults are inherited from our ancestors, some are due to just random mishaps in our formation and most are completely harmless. We may go our entire lives without ever activating these faults. However, poor lifestyle choices and even simply bad luck can mean that one of these faults can become active. Where the cancer will form and how it proceeds will depend on what the fault and where it occurs in our genetic makeup.
Why do some cancers metastasize to specific areas of the body?
Whilst it is never really a satisfactory response, the reality is science still doesn’t know. It has been proposed in the “seed and soil” hypothesis that some cancers will proliferate in some environments where the tissue (soil) is best suited to the circulating cancer cells (seeds) biological needs. How this process is activated is currently at the cutting edge of cancer research.
Why doesn’t my body kill off the disease?
As previously mentioned the Cancer cells have a number of processes or hallmarks which enable it to bypass the normal immune system responses of the organism. In spite of this however, it is the case that many cancers never get to substantially develop because in spite of the cancers hallmarks, the cancer cells and primary tumours simply cannot establish a strong enough positon to thrive.
What is cancer staging?
In order to classify the nature of the threat posed by cancer, oncologists and specialist clinicians have developed methodologies for labelling cancer progression. The most regularly referred to methodology is the TNM system. This works by reference to T – the primary tumour size, N – lymph node involvement and M – whether or not there has been metastasis of the disease. The most advanced cancers have large primary tumours 1 or more lymph nodes infected with the disease and distant secondary tumours in multiple sits.
Why is cancer treatment so damaging?
As the disease is so closely associated with the individuals own biological processes. The only way that cancer can be effectively targeted is by destroying not just it but also surrounding tissue. Surgical intervention is rarely limited to simply tumour removal, there is usually significant tissue loss around the site as well. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy work by destroying the cancers ability to nourish itself from the system, this process stimulates new tissue growth and therefore dying malignant tissue is replaced with high quality normal tissue once the cancer has died back. The processes are devastating for the individual but are essential if the cancer is to be controlled or eradicated.
Why has my cancer been allowed to progress to this stage?
Even 20 years ago the treatment of cancer was in its relative infancy. Human awareness of cancer dates back at least 2000 years and there is mention in Egyptian and Greek texts of the word even before then (the word cancer is derived from the Greek for crab as the tumours look like crabs with a large middle and veins extending out like legs). It is true to say though that treatments for cancer really consisted of radical surgical removal and nothing else until the 20th century. At this point experimentations in chemotherapy and radiotherapy and more recently immunotherapy have meant great increases in survival rates. Additionally awareness of hazard factors such as smoking, industrial toxins and poor diet are now significantly greater than at any point in our history.
This has meant that for the first time, acceptable practices and optimal practices can be set out and clinicians of all specialities should be aware of them. Regrettably, in modern healthcare settings diagnosis is often strained and attention to clinical history is often the first thing that suffers when a Doctor has to cope with the busy demands of a modern medical practice. This can lead to early diagnosis being missed. Of course some cancers simply accelerate very quickly and the first opportunity to deal with them is often when they are already quite advanced. However, in most cases now, the symptoms are well known and onward referral should be made a priority.
Understandably, when things have gone wrong, given the implications for delay in treatment, most individuals will want to bring this into focus for the sake of their families. This is the essential purpose of our Specialist Cancer Unit, all of our lawyers (we don’t employ non-qualified staff) have extensive knowledge of the biological foundations for cancer and have attended certified medical courses so that they can bring their expert knowledge to bear on any legal action.
We are free to consult and can usually proceed on a no win no fee agreement or other such arrangement so that the claim can run without any upfront costs. Contact us for a completely free and no obligation chat and we will talk through your specific circumstances.
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