Cancer Covered Blog

How Does Cancer Occur?

Understanding the advancements in cancer means having an understanding of how cancer starts and how it is treated.

Basically cancer is a broken cell. At one point the cancer cell was a normal cell, but somewhere along the way its internal mechanism became broken or abnormal.
We call that event a mutation. From that event on, the cell is never the same and doesn’t do its job right. It either grows too fast, multiplies too often, or spreads to a place it doesn’t belong. Fundamentally, it just doesn’t die. A cancer cell can arise from any cell: a breast cell, colon cell, prostate cell, or a blood cell. It multiplies and multiplies until instead of 2 abnormal cells you now have 2 billion abnormal cells in the form of a tumor or cancer.

Now I separate cancer into 2 broad categories: solid cancers and liquid cancers.

Solid tumors are easier to visualize. Say a breast cell or a colon cell mutates and begins to multiply. It eventually grows into the form of a solid mass or tumor.

Liquid tumors are pretty much the same. These are cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma. These cancers start out as a liquid blood cell, immune cell or a protein that floats in our blood stream. These cells can mutate too and eventually multiply and spread throughout the bloodstream taking over organ function and stealing the resources that healthy cells need to survive.

The key to successful cancer treatment and cure is to identify these mutations, or triggering events that make these once healthy normal cells behave so badly, multiplying and surviving until they become a tumor or cancer.

In some unique cancers, it is as simple as identifying the one mutation and designing a drug that can turn off that event and stop the cancer cell from living, growing and spreading. Other cancers (most cancers) are much more complex, but the concept is still the same. We look for the triggering events or mutations that are present and try to turn them off through treatments that can either cure the cancer or prevent it from returning.

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Ruth Warren, DO

Ruth is a thoughtful communicator who delivers compassionate care tailored to each of her patients.

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