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  #1  
Old 08-20-2011, 09:36 AM
Mr. Excellent Mr. Excellent is offline
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How fast can cancer kill?

In this thread, we're talking about a rather unfortunate cancer diagnosis: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...php?p=14159240 . And one poster raised an interesting point:
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Originally Posted by Folacin View Post
But very few cancers will kill you in a day. I'd think waking him up and letting him know would have been appropriate. We obviously don't have the facts, but I'd think that chemotherapy would have perhaps been an option, or even radiation (where you might end up needing to lose your testicals anyway, but at least you'd have a penis).
Are there any cancers that will kill you in a day? Or within a week of the first symptoms? What's the very fastest that cancer can kill you, from "I feel unwell" to "Gee, I miss the fjords"?
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  #2  
Old 08-20-2011, 10:08 AM
Gary Robson Gary Robson is offline
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Within a day of what? My father died four days after he was diagnosed. He was showing no symptoms at all. He was in the hospital for a completely unrelated injury and the tumor showed up on the x-ray.

If he hadn't been there for the injury, he would have died before the cancer was discovered.
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  #3  
Old 08-20-2011, 10:20 AM
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^Yep. I know a guy who was diagnosed with some bone marrow cancer postmortem. He was found dead, no antemortem signs.
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  #4  
Old 08-20-2011, 10:26 AM
Skald the Rhymer Skald the Rhymer is offline
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I don't think the question is answerable; it's too broad.

One of my aunts refused to see a doctor over the last years of her life. When she finally went to see one about her multiple complaints, she was diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer and died within three days. There was simply nothing that could be done when the disease had progressed that far.

My mother, chastened by her sister's "swift" death, went to the doctor far more regularly after that. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2005 and died in late 2006 after undergoing both chemotherapy to fight the disease and radiation as a palliative measure. So she lasted about a year, but that was because she caught it earlier; if she'd kept putting off a doctor visit until the last minute, her story might have sounded like my aunts.

One of my sisters found a cancerous lump in her breast around 1996 or so. Got it early, got it out, went on to annoy me for the last 15 years and is still going strong.
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  #5  
Old 08-20-2011, 10:34 AM
lavenderviolet lavenderviolet is offline
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It's really difficult to answer this question because all cancers start out as microscopic and undetectable with our current technology. If we COULD detect cancers at that level, then we would be able to stop many of them before they kill.
Unfortunately with our current technology we often don't find out cancerous tumors exist until they are large enough to compress a healthy body structure and cause symptoms (like when a brain tumor grows large enough to compress a healthy part of the brain and the person begins to have trouble with the functions of that part of the brain). At that point the tumor has been growing for months or years.
Some tumors do tend to grow faster than others. Glioblastoma multiforme (unfortunately the most common kind of cancer arising in the brain) comes to mind as a very rapidly growing and aggressive cancer.
The longer you have the cancer in your body, the higher the chance of metastasis, which is what makes many cancers so deadly. Many people with breast cancer die not because of the tumor in the breast but because that tumor spreads to a vital organ such as the liver, lungs, or brain. Since metastasis is a microscopic process, again it's impossible to say for sure exactly at what point someone's cancer goes from curable to incurable and deadly.

Last edited by lavenderviolet; 08-20-2011 at 10:37 AM..
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  #6  
Old 08-20-2011, 10:49 AM
Canadjun Canadjun is offline
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It seems to me that the question is very difficult to answer. The fact that you've had a cancer diagnosed and then a day later you die from that cancer doesn't mean that the cancer killed you in a day; the cancer could have been growing for some time before it was diagnosed and either it was a fluke that you died so fast after the diagnosis or you weren't diagnosed until the cancer directly caused some other major problem.

Last edited by Canadjun; 08-20-2011 at 10:50 AM..
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  #7  
Old 08-20-2011, 10:59 AM
Skald the Rhymer Skald the Rhymer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lavenderviolet View Post
The longer you have the cancer in your body, the higher the chance of metastasis, which is what makes many cancers so deadly. Many people with breast cancer die not because of the tumor in the breast but because that tumor spreads to a vital organ such as the liver, lungs, or brain. Since metastasis is a microscopic process, again it's impossible to say for sure exactly at what point someone's cancer goes from curable to incurable and deadly.
That's my mother's story. They excised the breast tumors (I think) but by then the cancer had spread so greatly it killed her anyway.
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  #8  
Old 08-20-2011, 11:26 AM
StuffLikeThatThere StuffLikeThatThere is offline
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There are super-aggressive cancers that are difficult to detect, and those are more to "kill you fast." Is that what you're asking?

Thyroid cancer is an example. Something north of 95% of the cases of thyroid cancer are very treatable, and long-term prognosis is excellent. Anaplastic thyroid cancer, however, is really aggressive and often isn't detected until there's not much time left at all. (These are Wiki links, but were supported by information from my doctor.) An anecdotal case from my doctor features his mother-in-law. He's one of the best in his field and works at an excellent nationally-known hospital, and as soon as she even asked a question about what was going on, she had the best care available. She lived, I believe, five weeks after diagnosis. There just wasn't anything to be done.
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  #9  
Old 08-20-2011, 11:39 AM
Asympotically fat Asympotically fat is offline
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Some can be very slow, a colleague and friend of mine received treatement fo breast cancer and was treated successfully. Almost a decade later they found infact it hadn't gone away, though it took about a year or more for her to die after having been re-diagnosed.
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  #10  
Old 08-20-2011, 11:41 AM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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I've had requests for rush diagnoses of lung cancer on a Friday (suspected small cell carcinoma*) so that chemo/radiation could be started on the weekend to keep a patient's partially obstructing tumor from completely blocking his airways. Small cell CA is one of those very rapidly growing tumors that can cause trouble quickly.

Of course, even less virulent ones can kill in a short time by (for example) eroding into a blood vessel and causing massive hemorrhage.

*almost always associated with a history of smoking.

Last edited by Jackmannii; 08-20-2011 at 11:41 AM..
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  #11  
Old 08-20-2011, 03:53 PM
Al Bundy Al Bundy is offline
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Certainly

Of course cancer always takes some time to develop internally. Some cancers are faster than others. There are cases where the individual is able to lead a normal life without even knowing the cancer is developing. I suppose it's even possible to die suddenly of cancer and have the autopsy determine that fact. Your first symptom could be death. I think immediate death is rare today from cancer, but I have seen some fairly swift deaths.
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  #12  
Old 08-20-2011, 04:06 PM
phouka phouka is offline
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Originally Posted by These are my own pants View Post
Some can be very slow, a colleague and friend of mine received treatement fo breast cancer and was treated successfully. Almost a decade later they found infact it hadn't gone away, though it took about a year or more for her to die after having been re-diagnosed.
In many instances like this, the breast cancer has already metastasized to bone marrow, where it is extremely difficult to eradicate. There, it simmers for years until some unknown trigger causes it to turn aggressive again. I've read summaries of studies that one of the biggest problems is that cancers of this sort survive chemotherapy and become resistant to it, meaning that each subsequent bout requires stronger and longer chemotherapy to disable - not kill off - the cancer. IIRC doctors are now coming to the understanding that these cancers are never really cured. They're just sent into remission for a period of time, until they become active again. Eventually, the cancer becomes resistant to all available treatments and has spread so much that nothing will put it back in remission, and the patient succumbs.

A friend of mine, when I met her, was a 10 year breast cancer survivor. The third year I knew her, a bone metastes was found. She spent the next five years of her life fighting round after round against those damn tumors. After four years, everyone knew she was terminal and any chemotherapy was done to extend her life and, hopefully, its quality. She went off treatment when the treatment got as bad as the disease. Two weeks later, she died. (Still miss you, Barb. You were one fantastic lady.)
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  #13  
Old 08-20-2011, 04:19 PM
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Maybe the more relevant question would be, Are there cancers out there that show almost zero symptoms until the final days?
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  #14  
Old 08-20-2011, 04:33 PM
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For relevance to the penis case, the question should be something like "Is there a cancer where immediate treatment would lead to 60% or better survival probability after 10 years but where waiting 3 days for treatment would lead to 20% or less survival probability after 10 years?"

Modify the numbers as desired. The key is whether a few days' delay would cause a drastic drop in survival probability. In the short-time-to-death examples above, treatment wouldn't have helped even if it were attempted a day or three before the cancer was discovered.
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  #15  
Old 08-20-2011, 06:16 PM
iamnotbatman iamnotbatman is offline
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Maybe the question is: what cancer type has the shortest median survival given no treatment?

I would guess something like pancreatic cancer (3-5 months) or glioblastoma multiforme (3 months).
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  #16  
Old 08-20-2011, 06:54 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is offline
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In this old thread, I mentioned how cancer can kill someone by a number of mechanisms.

In terms of cancer killing someone ultra-quickly, (off the top of my head) there are a few ways:

1. Probably the most likely cause for a rapid and sudden unexpected cancer death is via a pulmonary embolism, i.e. a blood clot to the lungs. In fact, virtually everyone with cancer is predisposed to blood clots.

2. People with cancer tend to have weakened immune systems (either directly due to the cancer itself or from its treatment). As a result, they are at risk for overwhelming, fulminant infection. In such circumstances, people can go from being apparently well to dead from infection in a matter of hours.

3. Some cancers spread to the brain. If they suddenly start bleeding, the effect is indistinguishable from having a stroke and, of course, can therefore be rapidly fatal. Melanoma has a particular tendency to do this.

4. Some cancers can erode into a blood vessel or into the lining of the heart (spread to the heart itself is very rare). If that happens, the person can bleed to death or suffer heart stoppage, respectively. In either case, though, death occurs suddenly.

5. Cancers frequently spread to the bone marrow and crowd out the normal cells found there. Since the bone marrow is where the various blood cells are manufactured, including the platelets which help clot the blood, a person affected in this way is at risk for sudden, massive hemorrhage (bleeding). Obviously, that can kill quickly, especially if the bleeding happens in the brain. This problem is common in people suffering from leukemia (cancer of the white blood cells).

I'm sure there must be more ways to die suddenly (and early on) from cancer, but I'll leave it at this.

Last edited by KarlGauss; 08-20-2011 at 06:55 PM..
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  #17  
Old 08-20-2011, 07:07 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamnotbatman View Post
Maybe the question is: what cancer type has the shortest median survival given no treatment?

I would guess something like pancreatic cancer (3-5 months) or glioblastoma multiforme (3 months).
I don't think those are the fastest.

Without cites, I'll say:

Probably about the fastest is a type of lung cancer called small cell lung carcinoma where, untreated, death is usual in weeks.

Acute leukemia, untreated, can kill in days, although weeks is probably more likely.

With treatment, I agree that both pancreas and brain (glioblastoma multiforme) have horrible prognoses. And, even with treatment, non-small-cell lung cancer that has spread has an average survival of about nine or ten months. It doesn't get much worse than that.

Somewhat off topic, people may be surprised to learn that advanced congestive heart failure also has an average survival of about nine months. So, it's not just cancer that can kill quickly.
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  #18  
Old 08-20-2011, 07:48 PM
Gary Robson Gary Robson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obbn View Post
Maybe the more relevant question would be, Are there cancers out there that show almost zero symptoms until the final days?
Absolutely.
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  #19  
Old 08-20-2011, 08:15 PM
obbn obbn is offline
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Originally Posted by Gary "Wombat" Robson View Post
Absolutely.
Great, spiders, is there a God? and now this .. you really don't want me to sleep well tonight do you?
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  #20  
Old 08-20-2011, 08:48 PM
Gary Robson Gary Robson is offline
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Originally Posted by obbn View Post
Great, spiders, is there a God? and now this .. you really don't want me to sleep well tonight do you?
Sorry. It sounded like you wanted the ... er ... straight dope, so I didn't soften that.
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  #21  
Old 08-20-2011, 11:54 PM
iamnotbatman iamnotbatman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
I don't think those are the fastest.

Without cites, I'll say:

Probably about the fastest is a type of lung cancer called small cell lung carcinoma where, untreated, death is usual in weeks.

Acute leukemia, untreated, can kill in days, although weeks is probably more likely.

With treatment, I agree that both pancreas and brain (glioblastoma multiforme) have horrible prognoses. And, even with treatment, non-small-cell lung cancer that has spread has an average survival of about nine or ten months. It doesn't get much worse than that.

Somewhat off topic, people may be surprised to learn that advanced congestive heart failure also has an average survival of about nine months. So, it's not just cancer that can kill quickly.
As far as I can tell from internet searching, untreated small cell lung carcinoma has a median survival from diagnosis of "2-4 months", while glioblastoma multiforme "3 months". Seems about the same to me. I don't know much about the worst kinds of acute leukemias, but it looks to me like about "3-6 months" untreated is the generic worst case scenario, but I may be wrong.
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  #22  
Old 08-21-2011, 03:05 AM
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A friend of mine died of peritonitis caused by bowel cancer. He died alone and the cancer was never diagnosed- it was found by the coroner. So I guess it falls into the category of being found after death.

He didn't like doctors and never went to one for any reason. So he died without so much as an aspirin to assist with the pain. I can only imagine what he went through.
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  #23  
Old 08-21-2011, 05:16 AM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamnotbatman View Post
As far as I can tell from internet searching, untreated small cell lung carcinoma has a median survival from diagnosis of "2-4 months", while glioblastoma multiforme "3 months". . .
From the eMedicine/Medscape site (which may require registration):
Quote:
Originally Posted by eMedicine
Approximately 65-70% of patients with small cell lung cancer have disseminated or extensive disease at presentation. Extensive-stage small cell lung cancers are incurable, and patients with extensive disease have a median survival duration of 6 weeks.

(emphasis added)
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  #24  
Old 11-05-2014, 01:12 AM
Linux180 Linux180 is offline
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Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post
I don't think the question is answerable; it's too broad.

Actually, it is answerable... There's many different types of cancer and of the many different types, there are many different variations of those types.. For example, Lung Cancer is a "type"of cancer and then Small Cell, Non-Small Cell(or Large Cell) and then Combined Small Cell/Non-Small Cell are variations of Lung Cancer.. So basically, all the different types of cancer in general are broad, but the fastest killing types of cancers aren't that broad at all..

Take Small Cell Carcinoma and Large Cell Carcinoma for example.. Large Cell Carcinoma progresses much slower than Small Cell Carcinoma and is less likely to spread to other parts of the body.. But Small Cell Carcinoma grows and spreads much faster than Large Cell, and it has almost always spread to other parts of the body before it is found...

I have seen Small Cell Cancer kill within a couple of weeks of diagnosis.. When somebody dies from a rapidly growing Small Cell Cancer in a matter of 2 weeks after diagnosis, then doctors know that the cancer hadn't been there much longer than the amount of time it took the cancer to kill them after diagnosis.. How could they know it hadn't been there much longer? Because after diagnosis they could watch how fast it grew from diagnosis to patient death.. So, if a tumor was the size of a golf ball when they first found it and it doubled in size and killed the person in 2 weeks, they can pretty much know how long it had been there, because the cancer started and grew at the same speed it grew after the diagnosis.. All cancers are going to grow at a steady continuous rate of speed from start to finish...
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  #25  
Old 11-05-2014, 08:11 AM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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The opposite question is also interesting. I have a friend who at age around 70, and as a result of various complaints, was examined and found to have a very rare cancer growing at the base of his spine. They guessed it may well have been congenital. After an incredibly long operation (they suspended it after about 20 hours and then came back and took another 8 to finish) they excised it. I assume they were trying to save as much of his leg nerves as possible. For the better part of a year he used a wheel chair, then for months a walker, now he gets along reasonably well with just a cane.
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  #26  
Old 11-05-2014, 01:05 PM
naita naita is offline
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Originally Posted by Linux180 View Post
I have seen Small Cell Cancer kill within a couple of weeks of diagnosis.
And as someone has mentioned earlier in the thread, you can die from cancer before being diagnosed. Also, you're three years late to this discussion.
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  #27  
Old 12-30-2015, 04:52 AM
sweat209 sweat209 is offline
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Do cancer really kill people in days or months?

This news article seem very biased.

Motorhead's Lemmy died two days after 'aggressive cancer' diagnosis.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/...er-battle.html


How can any one die days or months after diagnosis? It just seems odd. Most cancers take year or more to kill you.

I have never heard of any cancer that kill you in days or months.

Even cancers of prostate, pancreatic, bladder, lung and mesothelioma take year to kill you.

To me it seems this guy had symptoms and never gone to doctor and when he did go it was too late.

The story seems very biased he could had symptoms for over a year. But the story is making out he only had symptoms for day or two.
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  #28  
Old 12-30-2015, 04:54 AM
sweat209 sweat209 is offline
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Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
^Yep. I know a guy who was diagnosed with some bone marrow cancer postmortem. He was found dead, no antemortem signs.
How can people die at home? If they have cancer and weak and at home and symptoms start to get bad why do they not go to the hospital?

It just seems odd.
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  #29  
Old 12-30-2015, 06:51 AM
kayaker kayaker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sweat209 View Post
How can people die at home? If they have cancer and weak and at home and symptoms start to get bad why do they not go to the hospital?

It just seems odd.
The bone marrow cancer led to weakness (from anemia) that the guy likely just attributed to "ain't getting any younger". There was also a lack of platelets, which allowed a bleed out into his abdomen.
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  #30  
Old 12-30-2015, 07:15 AM
Smeghead Smeghead is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sweat209 View Post
Do cancer really kill people in days or months?

This news article seem very biased.

Motorhead's Lemmy died two days after 'aggressive cancer' diagnosis.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/...er-battle.html


How can any one die days or months after diagnosis? It just seems odd. Most cancers take year or more to kill you.

I have never heard of any cancer that kill you in days or months.
Did you actually bother to READ any of this thread? Any at all? In which actual medical doctors explain EXACTLY THIS??

As for the "two days" thing, obviously the cancer had been present for some (indetermined) amount of time before diagnosis. As for why he didn't go to a doctor sooner, you'd have to ask Lemmy. But it's hardly beyond the realm of belief that someone wouldn't go to a doctor until they're close to death.

P.S. You don't seem to understand what the word "biased" means. "Printed facts that I, personally, find somewhat surprising" is NOT the definition.

Last edited by Smeghead; 12-30-2015 at 07:16 AM..
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  #31  
Old 12-30-2015, 07:34 AM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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Former NFL player Gene Upshaw died three days after diagnosis from pancreatic cancer. I haven't read anything that indicates when or whether he noticed anything abnormal, just that when he went to the ER with breathing problems, that was the diagnosis.
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  #32  
Old 12-30-2015, 07:38 AM
adaher adaher is offline
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Originally Posted by Al Bundy View Post
Of course cancer always takes some time to develop internally. Some cancers are faster than others. There are cases where the individual is able to lead a normal life without even knowing the cancer is developing. I suppose it's even possible to die suddenly of cancer and have the autopsy determine that fact. Your first symptom could be death. I think immediate death is rare today from cancer, but I have seen some fairly swift deaths.
I've always wondered what happens in your body though to cause sudden death, or death within days, from cancer. I've had a dog and an uncle who died very quick after a diagnosis and were only symptomatic for 48-72 hours. I never did get a clear answer in either case of what exactly it was that killed them.
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  #33  
Old 12-30-2015, 11:11 AM
yorick73 yorick73 is offline
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Originally Posted by Linux180 View Post
All cancers are going to grow at a steady continuous rate of speed from start to finish...
I don't think that is correct. If I remember correctly cancer cells will accumulate mutations over the lifetime of the cancer that gives them an advantage at a particular location over time. There is also the idea that some cancer cells that metastasize will re-seed the original tumor site and have a growth advantage due to, I think, added mutations that allowed them to survive in the alternate location. This could result in a slow growing cancer that hangs around for quite some time before it has the ability to really take off. Hopefully someone with more medical knowledge than I have can weigh in on this.

Last edited by yorick73; 12-30-2015 at 11:12 AM.. Reason: spelling
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  #34  
Old 12-30-2015, 11:38 AM
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You are correct that cancers do not grow steadily. In fact, even if we had perfect diagnostic tools, we could not usually pinpoint a definitive point in time when a cancer "starts".

In a healthy body, cell proliferation is carefully controlled, cells grow in the right places and in the right quantity. Cancer arises when the control mechanisms are compromised, and cell proliferation gets out of control. The cause is always DNA mutation. However, since there are numerous checks and balances, and also several DNA proofreading and repair mechanisms, perhaps 6 or more significant mutations must hit some combination of these mechanisms before there's a problem.

However, once dysfunctional cell proliferation starts, things can escalate, because cell division requires copying the whole genome. If DNA proofreading and repair mechanisms are already somewhat compromised, and the cell keeps dividing and copying its DNA, a lot more pathological changes in the DNA are likely to arise. And within a neoplasm, cells are undergoing crude natural selection - those cells that divide fastest will proliferate most. By the time a cancer really "gets going" the genome of the cancer cells will often look completely bizarre.
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  #35  
Old 12-30-2015, 04:13 PM
sweat209 sweat209 is offline
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Originally Posted by adaher View Post
I've always wondered what happens in your body though to cause sudden death, or death within days, from cancer. I've had a dog and an uncle who died very quick after a diagnosis and were only symptomatic for 48-72 hours. I never did get a clear answer in either case of what exactly it was that killed them.
I think you asking people die of cancer or in some case people die of cancer complications like stroke, blood clot, infection or brain hemorrhage so on.

In these cases people diagnosed with cancer and than die at home or weeks after they are diagnosed.
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  #36  
Old 12-30-2015, 04:15 PM
sweat209 sweat209 is offline
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Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker View Post
Former NFL player Gene Upshaw died three days after diagnosis from pancreatic cancer. I haven't read anything that indicates when or whether he noticed anything abnormal, just that when he went to the ER with breathing problems, that was the diagnosis.
Was it some strange type of pancreatic cancer? Most people live year or two if they have pancreatic cancer.
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  #37  
Old 12-30-2015, 06:05 PM
Blue Blistering Barnacle Blue Blistering Barnacle is offline
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Was it some strange type of pancreatic cancer? Most people live year or two if they have pancreatic cancer.
This may well have been a pulmonary embolism.

Almost every cancer can predispose to causing blood clots in the legs, which can lead to pulmonary embolism, which can be rapidly fatal. Karl Gauss mentioned this upthread.

Pancreatic cancer is especially noted for this. This is called Trousseau sign, after the doctor who discovered it. Nowadays, if we use eponyms at all, we prefer to name a disease or condition after patients instead of doctors. That's okay for this one; he diagnosed his own pancreatic cancer this way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trouss..._of_malignancy
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  #38  
Old 12-30-2015, 06:10 PM
Torontonian Torontonian is offline
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peter steel died of pulmonary embolism too
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  #39  
Old 12-30-2015, 06:12 PM
Blue Blistering Barnacle Blue Blistering Barnacle is offline
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Burkitt's Lymphoma is extra-ordinarily fast growing and I've heard it can kill someone within days of diagnosis, often by compromising the airway and preventing breathing.

http://www.webmd.com/cancer/lymphoma...sis-treatments

It also can respond very quickly to chemotherapy.

There was a movie called "Medicine Man", with Sean Connery. A child was imminently dying of a tumor, but was dramatically saved by a preparation of "forest stuff". I felt it was BS (and of course it was). Buuut...later I thought Burkitt's lymphoma could be like that, I think.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104839/
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  #40  
Old 12-30-2015, 10:38 PM
sinjin sinjin is offline
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My bro was told in late March that he had an ulcer. Two weeks later he was told he had stomach cancer. Six weeks later he was dead. It was not a good six weeks. He was 48.
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  #41  
Old 12-31-2015, 10:22 AM
Maggie the Ocelot Maggie the Ocelot is offline
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Well this thread is depressing.
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  #42  
Old 12-31-2015, 07:16 PM
sweat209 sweat209 is offline
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Originally Posted by Maggie the Ocelot View Post
Well this thread is depressing.
People dying of cancer, heart problems and motor vehicle accident or getting hit by car is the most conman cause of death in the industries country.

What is it 1 in 5 people get cancer in life? And what 1 in 4 get into a motor vehicle accident in their life?

And cardiovascular problem are the most conman cause of death?
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  #43  
Old 12-31-2015, 10:16 PM
PlumBob PlumBob is offline
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An acquaintance of mine felt ill while playing volley ball (first symptom) and was dead from acute leukemia in less than a week.
I'm really fucking scared of acute leukemia!
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  #44  
Old 12-31-2015, 10:18 PM
Blue Blistering Barnacle Blue Blistering Barnacle is offline
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Not to be morbid, but we're all going to die of something. If we avoid infectious disease, accidents and other trauma, eventually we will fall to heart dz, stroke, or cancer (or dementia).
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  #45  
Old 12-31-2015, 11:33 PM
nearwildheaven nearwildheaven is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlumBob View Post
An acquaintance of mine felt ill while playing volley ball (first symptom) and was dead from acute leukemia in less than a week.
I'm really fucking scared of acute leukemia!
There are several types of adult-onset leukemia that can kill in a matter of hours or days, and at least one where they've never developed any kind of chemo protocol because nobody has ever lived long enough for doctors to devise one.
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  #46  
Old 01-01-2016, 05:55 AM
davida03801 davida03801 is offline
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I would assume there is a bell distribution curve on the speed of cancer deaths by variety of cancer. Some take many years, and others a few days.

Isnít that the way most things work out ?
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  #47  
Old 01-02-2016, 12:01 AM
whc.03grady whc.03grady is offline
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Originally Posted by lavenderviolet View Post
Glioblastoma multiforme (unfortunately the most common kind of cancer arising in the brain) comes to mind ....
I see what you did there.
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  #48  
Old 01-02-2016, 08:07 AM
Chief Pedant Chief Pedant is offline
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Originally Posted by nearwildheaven View Post
There are several types of adult-onset leukemia that can kill in a matter of hours or days, and at least one where they've never developed any kind of chemo protocol because nobody has ever lived long enough for doctors to devise one.
This is wildly wrong without some kind of clarification about your starting point.

Obviously if the starting point is "at diagnosis" or "onset of symptoms" then the timeline could be zero for the unfortunate patient whose first symptom is his last (say; a hemorrhage caused by low platelets as a result of a production failure due to an unrecognized hematopoietic cancer). But...

To properly answer the question requires a clear definition for what we mean by "cancer" and what we mean by "how fast?".

Let us assume that, by "cancer that kills" we are talking about a cell which is abnormal enough to cause death (due to a variety of mechanisms) if the cell and its descendants are supported long enough to cause one of the varieties of ways by which cancer kills.

We can then look at the doubling time of those cells and approximate how long from the time the cell became abnormal to the time the patient died. For hematopoietic cancers, this would be at least months from the time the abnormal progenitor cell showed up, and for solid tumors, years.

One cancer cell does not kill you. Two do not. And so on, until you get enough of a tumor load to bump you off (mass effect; organ dysfunction; replacement of bone marrow; whatever). One can take the doubling time of a cell and extrapolate back to a putative starting point. This is probably not a simple exponential extrapolation, but is probably closer to what is called a Gompertzian model, where early in the cancer's course the doubling volume for the tumor load is more rapid than later on.

Either way, the best answer to a very rapidly-dividing cancer is still "at least weeks" from the time a hematopoietic cancer started til you take a dirt nap; years for most solid tumors.

Last edited by Chief Pedant; 01-02-2016 at 08:12 AM..
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  #49  
Old 01-02-2016, 08:28 AM
Blue Blistering Barnacle Blue Blistering Barnacle is offline
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I agree with the points you made and I'm glad you brought them up. Some 'cancers' will never kill you. Even a very aggressive tumour might not kill someone who is unlucky(?) enough to die of something else first.

However, I do think that it is more 'natural' to understand the OP's question in terms that make sense in human life and clinical science- how long does it (or can it) take cancer to kill you after diagnosis (or symptom onset)?
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