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Why does cancer get worse after diagnosis?


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Old 24th May 2017, 12:10 PM   #1
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Question Why does cancer get worse after diagnosis?

So a member of my family is on his last days. Suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer. Not a heavy smoker. He was fine until it was discovered by chance, and then it took him like a month to go downhill so badly that today, he was told to have his family visit.
This isn't the first time I hear about people who were fine or had just some minor pains until diangosed. I mean, since the cancer was there and advanced when they were diagnosed, they've had it for a while. So why do they seem to get horribly worse only when told they have cancer? Is it the stress weakening the body? I don't get it. He was fine a month ago. They always seem fine until told. Makes me not want to get a checkup.
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Old 24th May 2017, 12:37 PM   #2
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Sorry to hear about your family member.

A lot of cancers move pretty fast. And there often aren't many signs until the late stages. I don't think the diagnosis in particular does anything to speed it up, however treatment can weaken the body more than the disease. In fact many survive cancer just to die from treatment complications.
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Old 24th May 2017, 1:30 PM   #3
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Cancer is also often "underdiagnosed", meaning that the initial imaging only captures the tip of the iceberg. If you ever compared the results of CT, standard nuclear imaging to PET scans you will see the difference.

Or in other terms, the initial diagnosis was simply incomplete.
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Old 24th May 2017, 1:39 PM   #4
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There's a direct connect between the immune system and the brain. Cortisol is produced when people are stressed which can hamper the effectiveness of the immune system.
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Old 24th May 2017, 2:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anduina View Post
There's a direct connect between the immune system and the brain. Cortisol is produced when people are stressed which can hamper the effectiveness of the immune system.
Which in turn allows the cancer to thrive? That's what I thought, too.
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Old 24th May 2017, 2:26 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Pompom View Post
Which in turn allows the cancer to thrive? That's what I thought, too.
Yes.

The more detailed explanation would be that cortisol moderates the inflammation produced by the immune system attacking cancer cells. If too much cortisol is produced from stress, cortisol will over-moderate thus reducing the efficacy of the immune system.

High cortisol levels are intended for short term fight or flight situations since it allows the body to tap more glucose for energy spurts. Unfortunately, this strategy is counterproductive to combating cancer.
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Old 26th May 2017, 10:07 AM   #7
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The placebo effect.

Around 1:20 in video

https://youtu.be/jbAQoZjd-sY
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Old 26th May 2017, 10:21 AM   #8
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It doesn't get worse after diagnosis. It's just that, unfortunately, it's usually diagnosed only when it has started getting bad. The casuality is the other way around.
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Old 26th May 2017, 1:03 PM   #9
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Because unless you can control or cure a disease when you catch it, it's going to get worse.

Lung cancer in non-smokers is one of those things you're liable to start complaining about after it is way too late. Pancreatic cancer is another one. You're rolling downhill by the time you find out, and momentum will carry you the rest of the way.

Sorry for your loss.
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Old 26th May 2017, 1:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pompom View Post
This isn't the first time I hear about people who were fine or had just some minor pains until diangosed. I mean, since the cancer was there and advanced when they were diagnosed, they've had it for a while. So why do they seem to get horribly worse only when told they have cancer? Is it the stress weakening the body? I don't get it. He was fine a month ago. They always seem fine until told. Makes me not want to get a checkup.
the mental and emotional stress of being diagnosed with late-stage cancer speeds up the terminal process


my mom was fine one day and then diagnosed with stage IV cancer that had spread. she died 12 weeks later.
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Old 26th May 2017, 1:15 PM   #11
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My friend's husband died recently from metastatic cancer only 3 weeks after diagnosis. He had what doctors thought were unrelated health problems for a year. They didn't connect them and he was misdiagnosed while the cancer spread.

Finally, he had so much fluid in his lungs that he was taken to ER and admitted. That's when he was diagnosed. Diagnosed or not, he would have died when he did anyway (if not earlier). His symptoms were only taken seriously when cancer progressed so much that it caused life threatening problems.

People generally tend to overestimate the role of the mind. I guess it makes them feel more "in control". In reality, it was shown that even placebo effect is usually only present short term. It is also stronger in people that have milder conditions.
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Old 26th May 2017, 4:11 PM   #12
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In the past, brain and body disconnect was assumed. Past neurological assumptions were wrong, as evidenced in 2015 research that discovered a direct connection between the brain and the immune system.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...-system-found/

Quote:
Perhaps the most commonly cited division between body and brain concerns the immune system. When exposed to foreign bacteria, viruses, tumors, and transplant tissue, the body stirs up a torrent of immune activity: white blood cells devour invading pathogens and burst compromised cells; antibodies tag outsiders for destruction. Except, that is, in the brain. Thought to be too vulnerable to host an onslaught of angry defensive cells, the brain was assumed to be protected from this immune cascade. However research published this month reported a previously unknown line of communication between our brains and immune systems, adding to a fast-growing body of research suggesting that the brain and body are more connected than previously thought. The new work could have important implications for understanding and treating disorders of the brain.
If you're into nerdy stuff, this is the research the scientific american article is citing.

https://www.nature.com/articles/natu...icamerican.com
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Old 26th May 2017, 4:52 PM   #13
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It depends on a few things:
1. How aggressive and fast growing the cancer is.
2. What stage the cancer was in when is was discovered.

Lung cancer is known to have a particularly poor prognosis because it is usually found in Stage 4. It is also grows quite fast unfortunately. There are certain cancers that don't show any signs until Stage 4. Lung, pancreatic, throat, brain tumors, and gynecological cancers like cervical and ovarian cancers are known for this.

Some cancers like thyroid cancer, certain types of breast cancer, prostate cancer in older men, and testicular cancer show signs in the early stages and can be slow growing, so the prognosis is generally good for those.

I'm sorry about your family member. My aunt is dying of throat cancer, and it's very difficult to watch.
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Old 27th May 2017, 10:37 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anduina View Post
In the past, brain and body disconnect was assumed. Past neurological assumptions were wrong, as evidenced in 2015 research that discovered a direct connection between the brain and the immune system.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...-system-found/



If you're into nerdy stuff, this is the research the scientific american article is citing.

https://www.nature.com/articles/natu...icamerican.com
I read the abstract:
Quote:
One of the characteristics of the central nervous system is the lack
of a classical lymphatic drainage system. Although it is now
accepted that the central nervous system undergoes constant
immune surveillance that takes place within the meningeal
compartment
1–3
, the mechanisms governing the entrance and exit
of immune cells from the central nervous system remain poorly
understood
4–6
. In searching for T-cell gateways into and out of the
meninges, we discovered functional lymphatic vessels lining the
dural sinuses. These structures express all of the molecular hall-
marks of lymphatic endothelial cells, are able to carry both fluid
and immune cells from the cerebrospinal fluid, and are connected
to the deep cervical lymph nodes. The unique location of these
vessels may have impeded their discovery to date, thereby contrib-
uting to the long-held concept of the absence of lymphatic vascu-
lature in the central nervous system. The discovery of the central
nervous system lymphatic system may call for a reassessment of
basic assumptions in neuroimmunology and sheds new light on the
aetiology of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases
associated with immune system dysfunction.
Would you care to explain what any of this has to do with cancer? This article is talking about lymphatic vessels in the CNS, and neuroinflammatory/neurodegenerative diseases. It has nothing to do with cancer at all (even if you include various types of brain cancer, none are considered inflammatory/degenerative).
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Old 27th May 2017, 11:45 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphamale View Post
my mom was fine one day and then diagnosed with stage IV cancer that had spread. she died 12 weeks later.
Yes, but there is no evidence to say that she would have lived any longer had she been unaware of her diagnosis.
Stage 4 cancer means that the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body. It may also be called advanced or metastatic cancer.
Depending on the exact type of cancer she had and where it had spread to and the extent of that spread and the physical condition of your mother, 12 weeks may be a short or average or long time for your mother to live after diagnosis.
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