Which Cancers Do We Treat?

Location,
Location,
Location

What is the difference between breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, lymph cancer, blood cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, liver cancer, bone cancer, muscle cancer, and all the other cancers?

The only difference between all these cancers listed (and not listed) is the first word, “location“ of the cancer.

The second word is “cancer”. Meaning that the process known as cancer has been discovered in one or more of these locations…. that is all!

“Location-location-location”

In order for a cell to be identified as cancer by a specialist physician who examines blood, biopsies specimens, does autopsies, etc. known as a “pathologist”, they must be able to recognize and distinguish very specific characteristics different from normal cells including shape, size and ratios between internal cell structures (organelles) of cell(s) being examined.  This is called, “morphology” (shape/structure). And, as everyone knows, shape determines function and vice versa.

We have five fingers on our hands and therefore our hands can perform specific functions that we all know and understand.  However, if our thumb was sticking straight up perpendicular to the rest of our hand between our second and third fingers, that hand would not be able to perform the functions that other hands do. Thus, in spite of the fact that this hand has four fingers and one thumb, the shape prevents it from having the same function. Likewise, if a creature has lungs, they can breathe air or if they have wings, they can usually fly.

Form (shape), also known as “anatomy” determines function (physiology).  Also, it can be understood the other way around; the shape of something exists to perform one or more functions, such as wings are required in order to fly. This same principal applies to microscopic cells and organisms as well. Everything in nature has a function (or purpose) and in order to fulfill those functions (purpose), specific sizes and shapes are required.

 Once the pathologist, who examined the tissue specimen, establishes that the cell(s) meets all of the structural characteristics that define cancer, he/she makes a diagnosis, cancer.  The next step is to determine from where the cell(s) arose, i.e., breast, colon, etc. And, then other characteristics are tested for and identified including genetic expressions, cell signaling molecules, and many other biochemical pathways.

 But the point is that cancer has specific shape characteristics different than non-cancerous cells because the cancer cell is performing functions differently than normal cells.

 Simply put, cancer cells are cells that have lost their ability to use oxygen in a special organelle inside the cell called mitochondria, so they must now depend upon a very basic mechanism that exists in all living cells to produce energy called fermentation, or as biologists call it, glycolysis.

 Glycolysis is quite inefficient because it requires 19 times more glucose to produce the same amount of energy, but it does save the cell’s life and allows survival. So, these cells that have lost that ability to use oxygen efficiently must signal their DNA to start making new proteins and new enzymes and add certain receptors on their outside membrane, while at the same time eliminating certain gene expressions and eliminate certain enzymes and proteins and receptors that are no longer necessary. So, here we have it …. a different looking and functioning cell.

 Keep in mind that the first order of business for any cell is to make energy because it is required for the cell to perform all of its functions….no energy and the cell dies. Clearly, then the cell that loses its main energy producing structures (mitochondria) must undergo many changes to be able to produce enough energy to survive and that is what cancer is. Nothing more and nothing less.

 The reason why some cancers are more “dangerous” or more “aggressive” than others is due to its location, not because it is a different “kind of cancer” …. there is only one thing that distinguishes a cancer cell from a non-cancer cell and that is how it makes energy, not how much energy it makes. All cells need the same amount of energy regardless of whether it is a cell on the elbow or a cell in the heart that is beating 70 times per minute. All cancer cells are just modifications of an original cell, like a gland in the breast or colon or pancreas or cartilage or bone or muscle or a cell that lines the bladder or a cell in the kidney, etc., etc., etc.

 So, a tumor in the breast may grow to 5 cm and still be in an early stage that has not metastasized (spread) anywhere, whereas as a tumor in the pancreas that will have already spread to the bile duct or liver or intestines if it even reaches 2 or 3 cm in size. Likewise, a cancer in the brain cannot grow too much without causing the brain to herniate, but the basic processes in those cells are the same as the cancer cells in the breast or the colon or wherever else it develops.

 When we discuss each cancer, such as breast or colon, etc., we will discuss how its location will result in certain problems and how it will spread to the lymphatic system or other organs as a consequence of the lymphatic and blood vessels associated with the affected organ. As an example, colon cancer usually spreads to the liver and lungs due to the blood and lymphatic vessels associated with the colon, not because it is a “specific kind of cancer”. The same applies to all organs and glands and other structures in the body that must change their functional capabilities and shape because they have lost the number or the function of the energy producing structures inside their cells called mitochondria.

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