How Quickly Do Cancers Spread?

How Quickly Do Cancers Spread?

During each annual breast cancer awareness month, your goal should be to learn more about this insidious disease than formerly known.

⚠️ Use Discretion: Graphic human anatomy.

Beyond One Cancer

By a wide margin, more money is spent on breast cancer research per death than any other form of cancer. [1] Becoming educated regard­ing prevention, testing and statistical pre­disposi­tion improves health and mortality.

In simple terms, cancer is a name for cells that are rapidly dividing without regard to the body. The word “cancer” actually refers to a collection of more than 100 different diseases, such as breast, cervical, or prostate cancer.

It is undisputed that the best way to combat cancer is through early detection. However, it might take weeks to schedule your first appoint­ment after the discovery of a lump. A physician may begin a course of anti­biotics for several days to rule out a possible non-bacterial inflammation or monitor whether lump size abates.

Months can go by before a diagnosis is provided. Time passes while awaiting results from x-rays, ultra­sounds, and mammo­grams. During all this waiting, a patient naturally wonders if more aggres­sive treat­ment should have begun sooner.

10 Most Common Cancers
  1. Skin cancer: 2,000,000
  2. Prostate cancer: 241,740
  3. Breast cancer: 226,870
  4. Lung cancer: 226,160
  5. Colorectal cancer: 103,170
  6. Bladder cancer: 73,510
  7. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: 70,130
  8. Kidney cancer: 64,770
  9. Thyroid cancer: 56,460
  10. Endometrial cancer: 47,130

All values represent 2012 estimates by ACS. [14] Incidence varies by country. Most tumors are benign. Learn more about cancer funding from the National Cancer Institute.

Off To A Bad Start

It is natural to assume that the moment a lump is detected is when the cancer began—or perhaps just within the interval since the last breast self-examination (BSE). Cell mutations typically take years to manifest them­selves as cancer cells. This is why cancer is more common in older people.

A genetic predisposition to a type of cancer or exposure to specific carcinogens may factor into development. By the time a lump can be felt or lesions become manifest within radio­logy images, years of development have taken place. [2]

Cell mutations typically take years to manifest.

The earliest cancer warning sign may be persistent pain. Next, warts or moles can change color. In some cases, the shape may change too. As the condition worsens, wounds refuse to heal. A sore throat develops and there is persistent coughing. These symptoms are likely before the discovery of a lump.

Since cancer is abnormal cell growth, advancement is not always linear. Cells can grow slowly over several years, become dormant (remission), and/or rapidly proliferate when malignant. Normal genes multiply during childhood. Multipli­ca­tion primarily becomes a mechanism for wound repair in adulthood. Oncogenes (cancer genes) multiply constantly.

A backup system called tumor-suppressor genes, like p53, should keep aberrant cells at bay. However, if these suppres­sors become damaged, cancer cells grow unchecked.

Cancer is a name for cells that are rapidly dividing without regard to the body.

Though cancer is not considered an autoimmune disease, each condition seizes control of the body’s defensive immune system. In patients diagnosed with either disease, these two opposing forces may compound, further complicating treatments and side-effect management efforts.

Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too

Although gynecomastia—abnormal hormonal male breast enlargement—is the most common male breast disorder, male breast cancer is possible, though rare. There are only about 2,000 cases in the United States annually with 400 male deaths. The incidence of breast cancer in men is 1 percent of that for women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Regardless of gender, chances increase if parents, grand­parents, and/or siblings battle breast cancer.

Male gynecomastia
Male gynecomastia

Comorbidities can raise the odds of tumor malignancy. For example, Sjögren’s makes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma 440 percent more likely. [3] Men with such heredity or predisposition should perform regular BSE—especially during October National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). An ultrasound or mammogram may be required if a lump is discovered.

Male gynecomastia excision
Large glandular mass of male breast tissue, surgically removed

As is the case with many women, male mammograms may be nondiagnostic due to dense tissue. An estimated 66% of premenopausal women, and 25% of postmeno­pausal women, have breasts that are dense enough to inter­fere with mammogram accuracy. Studies show that having dense breasts raises the risk of developing breast cancer fourfold to sixfold, primarily because density can obscure tumors. [4]

Sometimes alternate imaging technologies provide clearer results. A radiolo­gist is trained to look for vascularity within a mass. This indicates that a tumor has a blood supply—an essential characteristic of cancer malignancy. Poor imaging can hinder this assessment.

Breast screening programs produce a high level of false positive results. In pre-publication data, Kheiron Medical Technologies, has developed the first deep learning-based software that surpasses the U.S. National Performance Bench­marks for Modern Screening Digital Mammography based on independent multi-center clinical trials. [5]

Where Breast Cancer Begins

Almost 75% of all breast cancers begin in the cells lining the milk ducts and are called ductal carcinomas. Approximately 25% of male breast cancers are lobular carcinoma (cancer that begins in the lobules). Inflammatory breast cancer makes up about 1% to 5% of all breast cancers.

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