Cancer can occur twice in a row

Malignant cells: this is why cancer comes back often

Cancer cells are masters at hiding. Sometimes they can spread to other tissues or organs at an early stage and sometimes remain undetected there for a long time. But why is cancer so difficult for the immune system to discover and why does cancer come back often after successful therapy?

The body's defense system performs at its best every day. It fights intruders, repairs damage and dispose of sick and dead cells. When it comes to cancer cells, the immune system faces a particularly difficult task. Cancer cells are the body's own living cells - and the defense system is not designed to fight your own body. In addition, the so-called programmed cell death mechanism is often overridden in cancer cells. Usually, diseased cells kill themselves.

Cancer cells can make themselves invisible

In addition, the malignant cells have a variety of different strategies to hide from the immune system. Cancer cells can make themselves virtually invisible. In addition, cancer cells inhibit immune reactions and are therefore less vulnerable to attack.

So-called tumor stem cells are a particular problem. These have the ability to divide infinitely and to form new cells over and over again. In principle, a single cancer stem cell can produce a complete tumor. Fighting tumor stem cells with cancer therapies is difficult. Cancer stem cells have good repair mechanisms and even have the ability to remove cell toxins such as those used in chemotherapy.

Why cancer comes back so often

It can happen that chemotherapy or radiation therapy successfully combats the tumor, but a cancer stem cell survives. This can be in sleep mode for a long time, sometimes for years, and suddenly become active again at some point. Cancer is coming back. For this reason, cancer that recurs is, in most cases, a relapse, i.e. a flare-up of the same type of cancer. It can also happen that a new cancer is due to the previous cancer therapy. In these cases, experts speak of a "second cancer".

In order to fight cancer, different therapies are often combined with one another. This increases the chance of reaching and killing as many cancer cells as possible. The challenge is to design the therapy in such a way that it is as aggressive as possible against the cancer, but harms healthy cells as little as possible.

Every cancer therapy has its strengths

How the various therapeutic measures are combined differs from patient to patient. This depends, among other things, on the patient's state of health, the type of cancer and the aggressiveness of the tumor. The operation is mainly used for localized tumors. A so-called systemic therapy that is effective throughout the body, such as chemotherapy, can be used before an operation, for example to first shrink a tumor.

Both before and after an operation, chemotherapy can also start a large-scale attack in the body against any remaining cancer cells - even those that have already spread to more distant tissue. Radiation therapy is usually used locally in order to treat the surrounding tissue in a targeted manner, for example, in the case of breast cancer, the breast tissue and the lymph nodes in the armpits.

Metastases: Even tiny tumors can sometimes spread

Usually not only the primary cancer is treated. If you don't know for sure whether the cancer has already spread, therapy is often expanded. Because not only larger tumors can form daughter tumors. In the case of black skin cancer, for example, even tiny tumors can form metastases that are initially small and therefore remain undetected.

It is even possible that a tumor discovered in the course of an examination is a daughter tumor and the primary tumor is hidden somewhere in the body. A tissue examination provides evidence of this. If the tissue found does not match the location, the doctors know that cancer is also present elsewhere: For example, someone may have a bone tumor that consists of liver cancer cells because the cause (the primary cancer) is a tumor in the Liver that has already spread into the bones.

The chances of a cure are good for many types of cancer

Even if the facts sound less optimistic so far, the chances of a cure for cancer are significantly better today than they were a few years ago. An estimated 50 percent of all people with cancer survive the cancer. Breast cancer and prostate cancer in particular, which are two of the most common types of cancer, are usually easy to treat.

Of course, it would be even better if you could make sure that cancer does not develop in the first place. Colon cancer is an example here: In the course of the preventive examination, precancerous stages can already be identified and removed, so that cancer often does not develop in the first place.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

more on the subject

  • Subjects:
  • Health,
  • Diseases,
  • Symptoms,
  • Chemotherapy,
  • Immune system,
  • Lymph nodes,
  • Skin cancer,
  • Cancer,
  • Tumor,
  • Radiotherapy,
  • Breast cancer,
  • Prostate cancer,
  • Colon cancer