August 10, 2010 2 Comments
Have you ever heard that when someone who has cancer and goes in for surgery that as soon as the oxygen hits the tumor, the cancer spreads like a wildfire? For years I thought this was true. I have heard my parents, teachers and people I thought of as authority figures spew this claim out throughout the years. Well, today at work I was talking to my boss about her mother who has recently died from lung cancer when she said “I wonder if the cancer spread when they opened her up?” I instantly questioned if this is true, because if you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense. I mean if oxygen cause cancer to metastasize wouldn’t something like simple breathing do the same thing?
So, after some research I am happy to report that this is just a common cancer myth. The real reason cancer spreads is because the cancer cells get into the blood stream and travel to other parts of the body where they lodge and start growing. Although the origins of this myth are unknown, it may stem from when a patient undergoes surgery for cancer and later dies because the cancer has spread. Because an individual has had surgery friends and family usually become optimistic. When they find out the cancer spread, people tend to grasp for meaning and causality. They come to the conclusion that the surgery was the cause of the cancer spreading. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is plenty of published scientific data that supports surgery as the treatment with the best cure rate. Also surgeons may leave microscopic cancer cells which can cause cancerous tumors to grow rapidly, which could also lead one to believe that when the cancer hit the air, it spread.
So cancer can/does spread in some instances, before surgeries and after surgeries. But it has nothing to do with the cancer being exposed to oxygen when surgery is being performed.