Cancer findings may lead to breakthrough

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Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, pain, recurrence — cancer.

But when two new words, “spontaneous disappearance,” were added to this list of cancer vocabulary, I was surprised. Yet a New York Times article describes just that — cancers which simply disappear, all on their own, without any treatment.

The Times article describes a significant study that analyzed data from screening tests for breast and prostate cancers. In certain cases, the screening tests detected small tumors, which would actually reduce in size over the years, and, in certain cases of breast cancer, disappear completely. The article goes on to report cases of various cancers in which the patients showed up for surgical removal of the tumor, but the surgeons found nothing but scar tissue, indicating the presence of a past tumor that had since disappeared.

The idea of having something like cancer just vanish seemed incredulous at first, and as I read the article, I had a million questions running through my head. How does something this serendipitous happen? How can the body suddenly find the ability to take care of this tumor when it clearly could not handle it before? I scanned the article trying to look for answers to my questions, and although many questions were left unanswered, the article did mention a few possibilities in this direction.

The article suggested spontaneous reversion of the mutant cells to their original condition. Another interesting possibility that the article presented was that a variety of factors, including the behavior of cells surrounding a tumor, the hormone level in cancer patients, and the immune system of the patients, can affect the way a tumor grows. In fact, the article quotes a doctor saying, “[Tumors need the cooperation of] the whole organism.” Although I don’t quite believe that by simply “thinking” away cancer, the tumor will disappear, it could mean that a positive attitude on the part of the patient can contribute to the reduction of the tumor.

The implications of this discovery are tremendous. If there are certain factors that cause tumors to simply disappear, it could mean that one day expensive and painful chemotherapy will not be needed. If things like a positive attitude, a boost in one’s immune system, and different hormone levels really do contribute to the shrinking of tumors, we may have found an easy way to deal with a problem that has been plaguing us for a long time. Cancer research has been going on for years now and we really haven’t seen any breakthroughs.

If scientists move forward with this new discovery, we might get the breakthrough that we’ve been looking for.

Although we’re far from solving the cancer puzzle, this discovery presents a new foundation on which subsequent cancer research can be built. I can only hope that this vein of research continues in the future, and that the exciting discoveries that have been found so far lead to more.