Are all cancers unique to the individual?

I’ve search to find out whether each cancer is unique in nature to the individual. It probably is, but I haven’t been able to verify it.

I look forward to your feedback.

Can you elaborate? Cancer is the individual’s own cells growing out of control so they’re individual in that those and only those person’s tumors have that exact DNA (unless your unfortunate identical twin also has cancer). Is that along the lines of what you’re asking?

Thanks Elfkin477. I’m clear on the fact that each cancer grows from an individual’s cells. What is not so clear to me, (and perhaps you can clarify this point for me) is whether some cancers are more benign than others if they are not genetically inherited, for example?

Part of the problem is that we tend to identify cancers by the organ they’re found in (breast, lung, liver, etc.) In fact, there are cancers that attack the same organ at different rates. For most men with prostate cancer, the disease may progress so slowly that the patient will die of something else. However, there’s also a form of prostate cancer which metastesizes and spreads quickly.

It gets even more confusing because something like small cell lung cancer may spread more rapidly thatn non-small cell lung cancer, but may also be more responsive to chemotherapy. That would make the less aggressive cancer more of a threat, because it’s harder to contain.

Thanks kunilou. Very helpful. So cancer treatment depends on the area of the body affected, its stage and type. When I think of cases like Michael Douglas (stage 4 throat cancer) cancer is treatable based on your luck of it being detected in the first place and then getting the right combination of treatments. It seems to be a common scenario these days. Misdiagnosis/Given a clean bill of health and then eventually being diagnosed with late stage cancer. Why is there no uniform scanning technique? I don’t know where Douglas had previously gone to get his throat checked but it must have been at some of the leading hospitals. Surely they have the same advanced machines to detect cancers. It’s quite baffling.

Because it isn’t easy to separate cancerous growths from normal tissue or benign abnormalities. The human body is full of oddities and treating them all as possible cancer would more resources than what is available today, and would likely give an overall decrease in population health due to the stress of waiting for test results or receiving false positives and complications due to biopsies or unnecessary surgery.

Every single component of your body can become neoplastic (cancerous). Not only that, but they won’t all have the same markers. And not only that, but those markers may require time to appear, and there is, even in the most sensitive tests so far, a lag between “neoplastic cells appear” and “neoplastic cells do something that can be detected”.

Also, what naita says is important. Sure, it may help a few individuals, but when looking at the context of population medicine, society-wide, then the benefits do not outnumber the costs to the rest.

Some cancers are caused by communicable agents. One might infer that some cancers caused by one of these are more-or-less the same in each individual.

There are quite a few caused by viruses and one caused by a bacterium with more suspected.

There is more talk of contagious cancers. It’s still in the speculative realm, though.


4 family members get liver cancer

Doctors have warned that some cancers may be contagious after four members of a family contracted the same form of the disease. A man surnamed Tan, 50, from Yubei district, has liver cancer, and his wife, son and mother-in-law all died from the disease. The US medical journal Cancer Cell has published a research paper that says cancer is contagious.

Chongqing Evening News

While there is no sign of an imminent threat, several recent papers suggest that the eventual emergence of a contagious human cancer is in the realm of medical possibility. This would not be a disease, like cervical cancer, that is set off by the spread of viruses, but rather one in which cancer cells actually travel from one person to another and thrive in their new location.

So far this is known to have happened only under the most unusual circumstances. A 19-year-old laboratory worker who pricked herself with a syringe of colon cancer cells developed a tumor in her hand. A surgeon acquired a cancer from his patient after accidentally cutting himself during an operation. There are also cases of malignant cells being transferred from one person to another through an organ transplant or from a woman to her fetus.

On each of these occasions, the malignancy went no further. The only known cancers that continue to move from body to body, evading the immune system, have been found in other animals. In laboratory experiments, for instance, cancer cells have been transferred by mosquitoes from one hamster to another. And so far, three kinds of contagious cancers have been discovered in the wild — in dogs, Tasmanian devils and, most recently, in soft shell clams.
Some dispersed pieces of evidence exist suggesting a contagious nature of cancer, including rare cases in the human world and some quite noticeable ones in the animal world. A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1986 reported the case of a 19 year-old laboratory worker who developed a tumor nodule in her hand after accidentally pricking her left hand with a syringe of colon cancer cells while injecting them into laboratory mice. The patient had no clinical history to suggest immune deficiency, which could have helped explain this unexpected result. Another case study indicating a similar situation was reported by the New England Journal of Medicine in 1996. While operating on a 32 year-old man with a malignant fibrous histiocytoma, a 53 year-old doctor accidentally injured the palm of his left hand while placing a drain. The patient died due to postoperative complications and, five months later, the doctor developed a tumor-like lesion on his left palm.

davidmich you might want to look at sites like this that give a more detailed explanation of how cancers develop.

From what I read from that organization’s overview, it seems that certain viruses, bacteria, etc. don’t actually cause cancer, but cause inflammation in specific tissues. The body’s efforts to fight the inflammation is actually what causes the cells to mutate and become cancerous.

Well, there are indeed cancers that are transmissible. That is, contact from one animal without the tumor with cells from the tumor of another animal cause transmission of the tumor.

The most well known is Transmissible Venereal Tumor of dogs, or TVT. It is very common in some countries, and also very benign and treatable.

The second most well known is the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor, which is malignant, metastatic, and does not (as far as I’ve read) has a cure.

This is besides all the herpesviruses, papilloma/polyomaviruses, and retroviruses that can cause tumor secondary to infection.

It does not necessarily has to do with the inflammation that can later degenerate into tumor, but the infectious agents themselves, in an effort to survive and evade destruction, hijack the cells’ controls. They then can alter how the cell interacts and “transform” the cells from normal cells to neoplastic cells (cancer cells). In some cases, treatment of the disease can halt this situation and cause regression or disappearance of the transformed cells. In other cases, once this has started, there is no turning back and even if the person is cured of the disease (no more virus present), the cells will continue to be neoplastic (cancerous).

FWIW, mistake number one is using “cancer” as a single umbrella for a variety of different ailments with different causes, trajectories, and treatments. Part of the problem with identifying a single universal test for cancer is that “cancer” itself is not uniform.

The concept of “cancer” as a single monolithic disease is a misperception perpetuated by political activists in the 60’s who wanted public funding for research.

Just like the common cold – “cold” and “cancer” are really several dozen diseases wrapped under one name.

Absolutely. I did not make it clear that I meant some organisms that are linked to cancer don’t directly cause the cancer, but can start a chain reaction that leads to cancer.