The general public often think that if someone has a tumour, it’s a matter of clinical concern. However, this is not the case. The word tumour tends to find itself unfairly correlated with the word cancer, and whilst it is general knowledge that tumours can be cancerous, this is not always the case. People from all walks of life can be affected by cancer at any given time, and on rare occasions, patients can be asymptomatic for a long-time. In saying that, symptoms can also present in more sudden, complex and detrimental ways. Early diagnosis is imperative to decrease mortality rates, prevent further harm to the patient and improve prognosis. Cancer does greatly affect our civilization; from children to the elderly, from the north to the south side of the equator, from micro-organisms to humans, we all carry a risk of developing cancer. It’s important that the general public has a basic understanding of tumours and the progression of cancer, in case one day, we or a loved one are faced with this ailment.
A tumour can be broadly defined as a neoplasm. The University of Western Australia describes a neoplasm as “an abnormal mass of tissue, the growth of which exceeds and is uncoordinated with that of the normal tissues and persists in the same excessive manner after cessation of the stimuli which evoked the change.” All tumours are considered to have two basic components: clonal neoplastic cells, that constitute their parenchyma, and the reactive stroma, made of blood vessels, connective tissue and a variety of macrophages and lymphocytes. Both components contribute to the tumour’s behaviour and pathologic consequences. There are two different types of tumours, benign and malignant.
Benign tumours are typically characterised as being non-cancerous, but if a benign tumour becomes mutated, it can become a malignant tumour, gaining the ability to metastasise by invading the basement membrane. Benign tumours, if surgically removed, will not generally cause the host further medical complications as their malignant potential has been revoked. However, it is important to note that a benign brain tumour could cause increased intracranial pressure which causes the brain to rub on the skull, resulting in brain damage. Thus, a benign tumour on the brain is usually required to be surgically removed to prevent further clinical consequences to the host. Another example of when benign tumours can be catastrophic to the patient and require immediate clinical intervention is when obstruction occurs. If a tumour grows excessively or presents in a particular location that blocks the blood flow to vital organs or compromises the respiratory system this can have irreversible complications to the host and can result in death. Therefore, even if you have a benign tumour, that is considered ‘harmless’ at the time of diagnosis, regular check-ups with an appropriate medical professional are still necessary.
A malignant tumour is the true definition of a cancerous tumour. Metastasis is the term used when a tumour or cancer spreads from the localised site of origin to a distant site within the host. Tumour metastasis occurs through the circulatory system via the blood. Circulatory metastasis involves a variety of transport molecules, veins, arteries and vesicles. Metastasis also occurs via the lymphatic system, and when this occurs, cancerous lymph nodes will more than likely be found.
Tumour cells survive and grow by stealing nutrients and oxygen from other cells via the redirection of blood flow towards the tumours. In other words, the tumour is provided nutrients and oxygen by surrounding veins. Although, it’s important to note if a tumour is not satisfied with the amount of nutrients and oxygen transported by the surrounding veins, angiogenesis may occur to provide the tumour with the desired substances required to promote its growth and survival. Angiogenesis is a term used to describe the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels.
According to Cancer Australia, there have been an estimate of 138321 cancer cases diagnosed in 2018, and already, there have been 48586 deaths caused by cancer so far in the same year (2018.) These statistics highlight the impact cancer presently has on Australians and the importance of being cancer aware.
Throughout my medical studies and numerous conversations I have had with my professors, it has become common knowledge that the media doesn’t emphasise regular health checks and their importance anywhere near enough. The ever-growing attitude ‘if I have something on my skin, I can go and get it cut out and be fine for the rest of my life,’ needs to change because medical treatment is not always successful and should be seen as a last resort.
I regularly consult with medical specialists at the University of Western Australia. Concerns have often been expressed about the lack of faith people have in the current medical system. Nowadays, due to easy access to the internet and other resources, medical advice of doctors is frequently questioned due to the large prevalence of pseudo-medicine being spread by unqualified physicians and people that do not have a medical background. The public should be urged not to make assumptions based on what people tell them unless they are a qualified physician.
People should treat anything that doesn’t seem right in their body as serious as it needs to be; if your car’s broken you take it to a mechanic, so if you don’t feel right, go to a doctor. Health is often judged based on the persons external appearance but it’s important to not assume that because you eat or look healthy, engage in exercise and have never had an ailment in your life that you don’t require medical check-ups.
As a biomedical student and registered health professional I am personally a firm believer in the ‘risk-benefit’ checklist-method of medical treatment. If something is not a cause for concern, and receiving treatment could cause further clinical consequences, then it should be left alone. Your immune system is a powerful thing, medication and surgery is far too common in modern times.
Whether its vaccinations, tumours or anything else medically related, members of society should follow the advice of their qualified physicians as this can and does save lives. Gaining medical information from a reliable source and working out an effective treatment plan will help provide you with the best possible prognosis and increase your chances of survival and improve your quality of life.
Knowledge is power and technology has greatly increased the knowledge that can be accessed by the public. There is an infinite amount of information readily available on the world-wide-web at the touch of a button, and while this has brought afoot many great achievements, it is important to remember that with great power comes great responsibility.