Cancer – 3 Purposes of a Tumor

Usually associated with cancer are tumors. Tumors are: an abnormal growth of tissue resulting from uncontrolled, progressive multiplication of cells and serving no physiological function; a neoplasm. This is from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language.

A tumor can be either benign, like a wart, or malignant, in which case it is a cancer. Benign tumors are generally easy to remove completely. In contrast, cancers pose some of the most difficult problems in all of surgery. 40% of all cancers are treated with surgery and 60% are surgery combined with other treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Surgery is the only way to determine how far cancer has spread from the tumor. In the medical profession there are a few standard methods of comparing one cancer to another. The outcome will determine what treatments to take and the prognosis. These methods are called “staging” and the most universal is “TNM”.

  1. T – stands for the size of the tumor
  2. N – represents the speed at which the cancer cells are traveling within the lymph nodes.Since cancer cells generally spread within the lymph system this is a useful measurement of which to determine their ability to disperse.
  3. M – refers to the metastases, how far they are from the original cancer and how often they have multiplied.

Curative cancer surgery demands special considerations. There is a danger of spreading or seeding the cancer during the process of removing it. Cancer cells can grow almost anywhere in the body and the surgeon must not “spill” cells into the operating field or “knock them loose” into the blood stream. A techniques called “block resection” and “no touch” are used. Block resection means taking the entire specimen out as a single piece. “No touch” means that only the normal tissue removed with the specimen is handled; the cancer itself is never touched. This prevents “squeezing” cancer cells out into circulation. Clamping off the blood supply first, prevents cells from leaving by that route later in the surgery.

So as you can see the tumor plays an important role in determining what and how to treat your cancer.