Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

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.”

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

1
Text Only
Features
  • wherearethey.jpg Padilla enjoys reconnecting with childhood

    As a child spending time at her grandparents’ house, with all her aunts, uncles, and cousins around her, Kerrie (Bosley) Padilla spent endless hours outside playing chase, catching fireflies, or writing and acting out plays.
    In 1987, after her dad got out of the Navy, the family moved here from Georgia to be closer to that family: matriarch Dorothy Monzingo, and maternal grandparents Dorothy and Dwight Allen. Her parents, DeAnna and Steve Edwards – as well as a couple of siblings and some aunts, uncles and cousins – still live here.
    Eventually, Padilla graduated from Northeastern State University, and then its College of Optometry.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-Dream1.jpg Dream Theatre spotlights songwriters

    Dreams can come true for local aspiring songwriters who seek to gain performance experience.
    For one young musician, Thursday night was an unexpected dream of discovery, as well.
    Two opportunities are available to musicians at the Dream Theatre each month, the new Songwriters’ Showcase which opened Thursday night and Premier Night for musicians who have a few songs or a set, but not a whole show.
    In search of the groove that works for The Dream, Manager Larry Clark is partnering with Blake Turner, Lakes Country operation manager.
    The Songwriters’ Showcase, which will continue the third Thursday of the month in conjunction with Tahlequah Main Street Association’s Third Thursday Art Walk downtown, features seasoned performers who can share some of their personal insights into the how, when and why of their songwriting experiences.

    April 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Dream, Brewdog’s to host music festivals

    One sign of spring’s arrival is the scheduling of music festivals, and 10 bands will visit a Tahlequah venue May 24, the Saturday before Memorial Day.

    April 17, 2014

  • rf-Zoe-thing.jpg Conference attendees get words of encouragement

    Words of encouragement and door prizes were bountiful Saturday morning at the annual Zoë Institute’s Women’s Conference.
    Ten women shared words of wisdom in areas from happiness to health, and 100 gifts were given out, including the grand prize of gasoline for a year.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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

Poll

How confident are you that the immunizations for infants and children are reasonably safe?

Not at all confident.
Somewhat confident.
Relatively confident.
Extremely confident.
undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Stocks