Tahlequah Daily Press


October 8, 2013

Defining cancer can be difficult process

TAHLEQUAH — In the health care realm, everyone has heard of cancer and knows it causes tumors which can kill, but what, exactly, is cancer?

While no definition fits all cancers, the disease usually is characterized by cell growth and multiplication that is unregulated or not in coordination with adjacent tissues.

Such activity forms tumors, which can spread elsewhere in the body, often via blood circulation or the lymphatic system.

Cell growth and division is normal. It heals wounds, replaces skin and hair, and turns children into adults. In many cases, cancer seems to be these routine processes gone awry.

“It is an abnormality of what would otherwise be normal,” said Dr. Daniel Murphy, an oncologist with Tahlequah City Hospital. “The human body grows from one omnipotential cell in a fertilized egg.”

Cancer cell behaviors are caused by a series of mutations in the regulatory genes. More genes are progressively damaged until the cells are out of control. Though cancer can afflict children, it is much more common in older people, which suggests a series of genetic mutations are required to create a cancerous cell.

“Genes may be turned on which should be off, or off when they should be on,” Murphy said. “Skin cells stop growing when they touch each other, but if the inhibition isn’t turned on, they can continue to grow. Cells can even turn into different cells, or do what we call ‘dedifferentiate’ and become less specialized.”

Some researchers believe cancer is the unavoidable fallout of the genetic mutation process, which occurs naturally over generations, though there is much professional disagreement with the theory.

“It is true that there are genetic predispositions to cancer,” Murphy said. “A typical chance of an older person getting cancer is 1 in 8 over 15 years. But a young person with a family history may have a 50 or 60 percent chance of getting cancer in the same timeframe. However, many cancers are caused by environmental factors - carcinogens such as smoking, sunlight, asbestos.”

Cancerous tumors, or malignant neoplasms, are different from benign neoplasms, which do not spread. More than 200 types of cancer can afflict humans.

Reasons for potential lethality vary with the type of cancer, but in general, cancer kills by diminishing or interfering with the function of the tissues in which it is present. The spread of lung cancer reduces the amount of healthy tissue to absorb oxygen, or tumors can obstruct part of the lung and cause a mortal infection. Cancerous bone marrow interferes with blood cell production, or might release a deadly amount of calcium into the bloodstream.

Modern medicine offers many cancer patients an all-fronts approach, which may include radiation treatments, chemotherapy, adjustments to diet and lifestyle, exercise and counseling. But medical researchers are excited about the future possibility of personalizing cancer treatments based on biomarkers - which may help predict the behavior of cancers - and genetic inhibitors.

“Actually, we personalize treatment with the conventional tools of today,” Murphy said. “We are getting better at it, with better technologies and fewer surgeries and side effects. It is important for people to understand that cancer isn’t as lethal as they think. It is the most curable chronic disease there is. Heart disease can only be treated, not cured. About 70 percent of cancers are cured. It is the great medical success story of the last 20 years.”


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  • sp-symposium-art-panel.jpg Panelists discuss impact of Southeastern art

    Until recently, most people had a certain expectation of American Indian art – and it didn’t include images familiar to people in and around Cherokee County.
    “A lot of times, when people think about Native art, they immediately think of Plains art or Southwestern art,” said Roy Boney (Cherokee), Tahlequah artist and moderator of the panel discussion “Southeastern Indian Art: Building Community and Raising Awareness,” held Friday, April 11, at the NSU Symposium on the American Indian.
    Boney and the other panelists are frustrated by the divide between mainstream expectations of Native American art and their need for genuine self-expression.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-Teacher.jpg Dickerson believes in putting the student first

    As a child growing up in Elk City, Cherokee Elementary teacher Debra Dickerson lined up the neighborhood children and animals to play school.
    “I’ve been a teacher ever since I could talk. My mother always said she knew where I was because she could hear me bossing everyone,” she said.
    The classroom then was a blanket tossed over limbs of her big cherry tree on Eisenhower Street. Recess was spent tree-climbing, running, riding in the bus (her red wagon) and being creative.
    “Those were the days before video games and TV,” she said.
    Dickerson, 2013-’14 Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year, believes a classroom should be a safe haven for children, because school is often the best part of their day.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • kh-trash-pickup.jpg Cleaning things up

    Lowrey was part of the Cherokee Nation’s Career Service Center contingency of 11 volunteers. Other volunteers cleaned up trash along the roadway from the Cherokee Casino to the NSU campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-NinthAmendment.jpg Right to privacy leans partly on Article 9

    While the other articles of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights are straightforward – at least, enough for Americans to bicker over in court – the Ninth Amendment might cause a bit of confusion.
    It reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
    There are no rights enumerated, and it might be difficult to argue one’s Ninth Amendment rights in court, though it has been done successfully.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • stickball-2.jpg Stickball

    The American Indian Science and Engineering Society and Native American Student Associationat Northeastern State University hosted a traditional stickball game as part of closing cultural activities during the 42nd annual Symposium on the American Indian Friday. Participants included, from left: Nathan Wolf, Disosdi Elk and Chris Smith.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • green-bldng.jpg City council to discuss ‘green building’

    Tahlequah City Council will hold a special meeting Friday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss, among other items, applying grant money to renovate the city’s “green building” at the corner of Water and Morgan, near Norris Park.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • alcohol-info.jpg Alcohol screening can be critical

    It has been decades since Prohibition brought Americans gangsters, flappers and speakeasies, but statistics for alcohol addiction are staggering.
    Millions of Americans suffer from alcohol addiction and abuse, which affects families and friends.
    Today, April 10, is the annual National Alcohol Screening Day, and raising awareness through education, outreach and screening programs is the goal, according to the website at www.mentalhealthscreening.org.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • jn-CCSO-2.jpg Law enforcement agencies to get new facility

    Area law enforcement agencies will soon have a new training facility in Cherokee County.
    The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is building the new training room near its gun range, located north of the detention center. Sheriff Norman Fisher said tax dollars were not used for the building.
    “This is something we’ve been trying to work on, and it was built with no money from the taxpayers,” said Fisher. “It was paid for with drug forfeitures and gun sales.”

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • Holiday Inn.tif Promise Hotels to build Holiday Inn Express prototype

    Tulsa-based company Promise Hotels broke ground recently on the nation’s first new Holiday Inn Express & Suites prototype. The new 46,000 square foot, 80-room hotel will be in Tahlequah near the intersection of South Muskogee Avenue and the highway loop.
    Construction will begin immediately with an anticipated completion date of February 2015. The $7.22 million hotel will feature a new contemporary look with an indoor pool, sauna, fitness center, and larger meeting room.

    April 9, 2014 3 Photos

  • rf-Volunteer-Harris.jpg Music still in the blood of retired music teacher

    Volunteer opportunities Harris supports include Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee Country, Feed My Sheep, and directing the Go Ye Village Women’s Choir. She’s also served for many years as musical director of Tahlequah Community Playhouse.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
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