07 May 2012

Some cancers develop quickly

Liver, pancreatic and lung cancer are among the cancer types that grow aggressively, and which can lead to the death of the patient, mere weeks after diagnosis.


Liver, pancreatic and lung cancer are among the cancer types that grow aggressively, and which can lead to the death of the patient, mere weeks after diagnosis.

According to Professor Ben Smit, well-known radiotherapist at the Tygerberg Hospital, there is a great variation in the speeds at which different cancers can develop Even a type of cancer, which traditionally develops slowly, such as prostate cancer, can suddenly start developing very quickly.

Many types of cancer that are reputed to be aggressive and rapidly-developing, cause death swiftly after diagnosis, either because they were diagnosed too late, or they do not respond well to treatment.

Cancer of the liver is a particularly virulent type of cancer, and does not really respond to any chemotherapy.

The greatest cause of cancer of the liver is exposure to the contagious Hepatitis B-virus, which causes a type of jaundice, as well as exposure to aflatoxin, a toxic substance secreted by moldy peanuts, mealies and other grains. The majority of cases of cancer of the liver should be preventable by means of inoculation against Hepatitis B (now available in South Africa) and by not ingesting products infected by fungus, according to Professor Smit.

In the Western Cape, oncologists diagnose five to six cases of cancer of the liver annually, but in Mpumalanga, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mozambique it is more prevalent, owing to infection with the Hepatitis B-virus and aflatoxin ingestion.

People who develop pancreatic cancer usually live mere weeks or months after the cancer has been diagnosed. Lung cancer – and smoking is definitely a factor here – is also a tough one. Although progress has been made in the treatment of lung cancer, most patients only live a few months after the diagnosis has been made.

Melanoma is also an extremely aggressive cancer. If detected early, the chances if recovery are high, but if the melanoma has penetrated a centimeter or two into the skin, the chance of its spreading to other organs is great, and it becomes a deadly cancer. Ovarian cancer is often also not detected in time.

Certain lymphomas (lymphatic cancers) certain types of leukaemia, and testicular cancer react positively to treatment and are now regarded as curable.

The secret lies in early detection.

- (Mari Hudson, Health24)

Read more:
Pancreatic cancer
Cancer of the Lung
Tips for caregivers of cancer patients


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