Cancer spreading after hip surgery?

The thread on cancer appearing after quitting smoking jogged a circuit in my brain and I remembered something I’ve always wondered about. My dad fell and broke his hip back in the late 90’s and had to have surgery on it. About 6 mos. or so later, he was dead from pancreatic cancer.

Now, I know pancreatic cancer is a particularly nasty cancer and survival is pretty poor, so was it inevitable it would spread, or being cut open for surgery caused the cancer to spread because it was exposed to air? I think it was inevitable.


But his hip surgery wouldn’t have exposed his pancreas to air - even if it had somehow, surely the surgeon would have, you know, said something instead of just sewing him up? Nor would exposure to air cause a pancreatic cancer to spread anyway.

I have heard of cases (including my stepmother) where injury (not surgery) to a particular location appeared to trigger cancer at that location, but not elsewhere, no.

Keep in mind that cancers can cause metabolic changes that effect other parts of the body, and can metastasize to other sites. Also, it can indirectly cause a lot of other effects. Taking for example someone who had cancer and fell and broke a hip, like BaneSidhe’s father, this scenario could be due to:

  • unsteadiness due to metabolic changes, weakness, or unsteadiness due to brain metastasis.
  • weakened bone due to metabolic changes, or direct metastatic involvement in bone (unusual in pancreatic cancer, but common in, for example, lung cancer)

The pathological fracture at a site of primary or metastatic cancer that has weakened the underlying bone may be what happened with Askance’s stepmother. If the underlying process isn’t suspected or detected, they may repair the bone, only to have a florid cancer show up afterwards.

This is a very common belief which is probably not a real phenomenon (in most cases). I say this for two reasons.

If there is injury to a particular part of the body, or at a specific site, investigations such as x-rays may be done to look for consequences of the injury. As a result, a previously ‘occult’ cancer at the site may be detected. On the other hand, people who don’t sustain an injury at a given site are unlikely to undergo investigations focusing on that area. As a result, any occult cancers at that site will remain undetected. The net effect is an apparent causal relation between injury and cancer.

The second reason stems from human nature, i.e. people want to explain things. As an example, let’s say a man is found to have testicular cancer. He may be inclined, then, to think, “Why me. What could have caused this?” He may then recall getting kicked in the scrotum last autumn while playing football, and then go on to attribute the cancer to that trauma (or at least raise the possibility of a connection). On the other hand, although it’s hard to think about anything else shortly after it happens, men who don’t develop testicular cancer will often eventually forget their scrotal trauma. The net effect again is of an apparent connection between injury and cancer. I have been told that this line of reasoning is particularly common among women who develop breast cancer. They will often recall a trauma to the affected breast such as getting hit by a thrown baseball or having a toddler ram into their chest at full speed.

Agreed - it happens all the time that people go in the hospital for one ailment, get tested/imaged and various other things are discovered, often occult stuff that might or might not pose a real clinical problem (example: at least half the thyroid needle aspirates sent to me for diagnosis come about because the patient’s CT turned up a thyroid nodule).

Also, sorry to say, once you reach a certain age it is more common for various things to go wrong in close temporal association.

Not a superb analogy - but if your car’s transmission breaks down at 90,000 miles, you might in short order also need new shocks and a fuel pump. The transmission repair did not cause those other problems (unless your mechanic is on the shady side).

My Mom and I found out after Dad died that he’d gotten the diagnosis three or so months before his stroke and had asked his doctor not to tell us because he was worried about how we’d react. Looking back I wish he’d told us :frowning:

If memory serves me, I can remember my Dad having all of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer but not putting the symptoms together until after he died.

Also, if the cancer hadn’t taken him, the asbestosis he had probably would have, but not as soon as the cancer did.

I wonder about this. If we continue the “viral” theory of cancer, if your body has been fighting off a viral infection that hangs around, and then has to shift its resources to healing a surgical wound, it’s possible that the virus gets a foothold.

It intrigues me, because my mother had a tubal litigation reversal and was in fine health (she was older, and needed a lot of pre-surgery screening), and then turns up with lung cancer a year later. And my grandfather tested clean in his pre-heart surgery tests, then was diagnosed with bladder cancer two years later. I have heard lots of similar stories, some more credible than others.

Just anecdotal obviously, but based on the actions of a long-term viral infection, it seems to be something to think about. I carry oral herpes, and it only really comes out when I’m run down or otherwise sick.