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Medical Cancer Question

  1. Jan 22, 2007 #1
    I only have limited knowledge about cancer but to my understanding it is a (disease??) where there is a mutation within cells causing apoptosis to fail. This effected cell or cells then multiply with all of the daughter cells with the same mutation.

    I understand that apoptosis important but where my knowledge ends and my question begins is how does a group of cells failing in the ability to undertake apoptosis become a fatal disease? How does a group of mutated cells become fatal to the living of a whole organism consisting of millions of cells?

    Thanks for the time.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 22, 2007 #2
    think about what might happen if all those cells keep dividing without dying off like they should. What do you suppose might happen if some of those cells travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body and do the same thing?

    don't forget the library. it's always a good place to answer questions resulting from 'limited knowledge'.
  4. Jan 22, 2007 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    The simplest answer is to consider how difficult it might be to breathe if you have a basketball-sized tumor in your chest...
  5. Jan 22, 2007 #4


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Multiple things can go wrong in the development of cancerous tumors (or any tumor). In addition to lack of normal cell death, there is also accelerated division of the cells (they grow new cells faster).

    In addition to the type of situation Russ describes, which would actually apply to even benign tumors in addition to malignant (cancerous) ones, keep in mind that as the cancerous tissue grows out of control, it is not functioning the same as the tissue it is replacing. The tumor also disrupts the function of the previously healthy tissue around it by altering things like blood flow. So, when enough healthy tissue is destroyed and invaded by cancerous tissue, an organ is no longer able to perform its function and illness and death results from organ failure.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes when someone is diagnosed with cancer in a specific site, say breast cancer, that is just the place where the cancer starts, but it is the spread of that cancer to other parts of the body (that spread is called metastasis) that results in death.
  6. Jan 25, 2007 #5
    Thanks for the input it has definetely helped me understand the process better.

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