Friday 9 December 2011

Health and Medical: Understanding Cancer & Metastasis

House and Wilson (the oncologist)
Bromantic = (brother + romantic)
Image from 
Suddenly filled with disease terms in my head after watching yet another 5 episodes of House M.D. and this round, metastasis got my attention. In particular as Dr. House puts it,

"Cancer plays the field. Metastasis is just a fancy word for 'screws around.'"

Which kind of summarises the key idea of metastasis.

How does cancer screws around? Or before that, what is cancer?

Before we start to do our reading, I found a video on YouTube that can enhance our understanding first, so that the later reading can be absorbed much easier. I have added a playlist which includes 5 videos so far, do watch them all.

I have put this one separately in case you have want to jump ahead.

There is of course a lot of information elsewhere on the internet, but I would like to pick out a few key points which are useful and interest me.

To begin with, cancer begins when a cell suffers progressive genetic damages to produce a cancer stem cell is able to continuously duplicates itself (called mitosis) and  the site of where the cancer originates is called "primary tumor". If a cancer stem cell does travel to another part of the same organ, it will produce again forming nodules called 'daughter tumors' and the process is called local metastasis. [1]

If a cancer stem cell survives its travel to another organ and develops into a tumor in that organ, the tumor is called a secondary tumor or a metastatic tumor. Such new tumors will remain as the cells of the organ it originates from. Meaning if a pancreas cancer metastasizes to the lungs, it is called metastatic pancreas cancer, and the cells in the secondary tumors in the lungs are still cells of the pancreas. [1]

Here a diagram of the routes of cancer metastasis:
Main sites of metastases for some common cancer types.
Primary cancers are denoted by "
...cancer" and their main
metastasis sites are denoted by "
Image from Wikipedia
As such, abnormal breast cells could be found in the liver, lungs, brain or bones. Theory has it that "diagnosis of metastatic cancers is only possible after the event of metastasis", in other words, metastatic cancers are detectable after they have occurred. [1]

Metastatic cancers are treatable by various methods, "radiosurgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy, hormone therapy, surgery or a combination of these", depending on the type, size, location, spread, stage of the cancer.[1]

Finally, as English learners, you may ask, "do we actually need to know these?"

My answer will be, yes, because these are in fact very common knowledge amount the English speakers, and by knowing them, you will definitely benefit yourself in discussions, let alone the crucial knowledge you have gained.

By the way, a doctor who practices oncology (study of cancer) is an oncologist.

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metastasis -- (n) [U]  
metastasize -- (vb) [I] If cancer cells metastasize, they spread to other parts of the body and cause tumours (= a mass of cells) to grow there.
metastatic -- (adj) 
screw around -- phrasal verb offensive to have sex with a lot of people or with people other than your husband or wife
nodule --  [C] specialized a small raised area or swelling
primary tumor 
secondary tumor / metastatic tumor
diagnosis -- (n)  [C or U] (plural diagnosesa judgment about what a particular illness or problem is, made after examining it
chemotherapy / chemo -- (n)[U] the treatment of diseases using chemicals
oncology -- (n)[U] the study and treatment of tumours (= masses of cells) in the body
oncologist -- (n)[C] 

Metastasis @ YouTube

[1] Metastasis @ Wikipedia

Not Cancer @ House MD Quotes

Cancer Stem Cells @ Wikipedia

Mitosis @ Wikipedia

Medical Playlist @ Locky's English Playground YouTube Channel Playlist