Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical So my uncle has metastasis.

  1. Mar 30, 2012 #1
    My uncle has terminal cancer spread through his bones, lungs and kidneys. Our doctors gave him 6 months.

    But on top of all of the human's knowledge and technology, I should ask, honestly. Is there some thing that can still save him? A new treatment. Something?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Probably not. Once cancer has spread to so many organs, there is no viable treatment. Too many fronts to attack. I'm sorry for you, but I have seen too many friends/co-workers go down this path.
  4. Mar 30, 2012 #3
    Why this still happen? After years of research all we can do for a cancer pacient is... nothing? The same we would do 500 years ago? Any particular reason we can't remove all tumors manually/mechanically?
  5. Mar 30, 2012 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Once cancer has spread throughout the body, there is little hope.

    Early detection and proper treatment in the early stages is successful for many types of cancer. Medical sciences have made great strides in cancer remission.
  6. Mar 30, 2012 #5
    How is one supposed to detect cancer early if whenever he asks for a check-up all he gets is a blood/urine exam that won't show most of the cancers?
  7. Mar 31, 2012 #6
    Unfortunately, cancers are extremely difficult diseases to treat. Because they are a patient's own cells with slight mutations, almost everything that kills cancer cells, kills healthy cells too.

    With modern medicine, the 5 year survival rate for many tumors is extremely good (prostate cancer, for example, has a >95% 5 year survival rate). Other tumors have not met with much progress (glioblastoma multiforme has <3% 6 year survival rate, this is owing to the difficulty of getting cancer medications to penetrate the brain tissue).

    However, with multiple tumors the difficulty of treating successfully rises dramatically. Often drugs for one cancer are ineffective against another cancer, or even the same cancer at a different location in the body. Using multiple different drugs increases the side effects, often to the point where even if the cancer were cured, the patient can no longer survive.

    Many tumors can be removed through surgery. Unfortunately, many bone cancers cannot be surgically removed (they would have to remove the entire bone, and this is simply not possible for some bones). For lungs and kidneys, if it is only present in one, rather than both of either organ, it can (relatively) easily be removed. When it has spread to both of either kidney or lung, a person cannot survive the removal of both without at least one transplant, which they will not likely give to someone who's cancer has spread to so many other organs.

    Kidney cancers tend to respond poorly to both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and many chemotherapy drugs are toxic to the kidneys as well (which are likely already damaged from the cancer).

    Cancers that are spread over large areas of the body are also difficult (though not always impossible) to treat with radiotherapy, as too much healthy tissue is irradiated in the process.

    Sorry I can't give you the answer you want.
  8. Mar 31, 2012 #7
    What is the cause of that organs shortage if so many people die every day? Also, were not full organs cloned/synthetized using stem cells yet?

    Why are they removing whole organs instead of manually using precision machines to remove only the cancer tissue?
  9. Mar 31, 2012 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I'm very sorry to hear about your uncle.
    Unfortunately many people are not organ donors and even if they were there are problems of compatibility and logistics (i.e. how you transport those organs in time). Regenerative medicine is a growing field and there have been many breakthroughs in recent years with simple tissues like those found in the trachea but we are a long way from growing whole, viable organs.
    Sometimes it is a problem of identifying the tumour, other times the problem is that by removing the tumour you irrecoverably damage the organ and thus it will die anyway. A bigger problem though is that whilst tumours are macroscopic there can still be microscopic cancer cells left behind and (in the case of metastatic cancers) in the process of migrating through the body. Some of these cells can latch on to tissues and begin growing organs again.

    We have come a long way in cancer therapies over the last few decades but it is still an incredibly complex and difficult to treat condition. There are constant improvements to therapies but unfortunately we will not get to the stage where suddenly all cancers are trivial to treat. More likely we will make incremental, slow but steady progress (at different rates for different cancers) until eventually we look back and realise how different things were at a great remove.
  10. Mar 31, 2012 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Trying to separate cancerous cells from the healthy cells is like trying to get dust out of your scrambled eggs.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook