Science Questions

What are the different stages of Cancer?

Sun, 6th Nov 2011

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Question

Joshua Spell, via Facebook asked:

Can you explain what the different stages of cancer are and what makes some of the inoperable?

Answer

Kat -   There are lots and lots of different types of cancer.  People say the Breast self-examinationword "cancer" but itís actually many, many different types of disease and as weíve heard today, they're all very different.

It depends what genes have gone wrong in them, it depends what type of tissue in the body they started in, and doctors tend to stage cancer according to how far itís spread.

Normally, a cancer will start when a cell starts multiplying out of control.  We think about cancers not just as a little clump of cells that have gone wrong, but really as a rogue organ - so itís starting to grow a blood supply, and itís starting to involve immune cells and cells from the tissue around it - that's kind of very early stage cancer.  And if you can catch cancer at that kind of stage, it is very easy to remove with an operation and that the person will get better again.  This is why itís so important to try and catch cancer early, to go to the doctor if there's something wrong, if it doesnít feel right, because in many cases, early stage cancer can be successfully cured with surgery.  Then you start to look at the later stage, when it starts to spread.  It spreads through the lymph nodes in the body or starts to spread through the bloodstream.  And so, that can be really difficult to treat.

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