Two Common Types of TumorThere are a lot of different types of tumors, or neoplasms as they’re called by medical professionals.
- The two main types, benign tumor, which means it stays as it is, and doesn’t change.
- The other one is malignant, which signals something bad, like cancer, which means it can spread.
Just the Benign Tumors are Safe
- Adenomas come from epithelial tissue, which is a thin layer or membrane that surrounds your organs.
- Fibroids grow on fibrous or connective tissue.
- Fibroma durum (hard fibroma) is a common type, they’re those skin tags you get on your neck or armpit.
- Hemangiomas are more like those strawberry birthmarks, they are just a collection of too many blood cells in one place. These are often temporary and last just a few years in childhood.
Examples of Malignant or Cancerous Tumors
- Carcinomas are cancerous tumors found in epithelial cells.
- Sarcomas start off in connective tissue, such as cartilage and bones.
- Leukemia originates in the marrow and generally mature in the blood or lymph nodes.
- Blastomas form from embryonic tissue.
Where Does Tumor Came From?While they all go by different names, many tumors come from an overgrowth of tissues, maybe caused by a mistaken DNA. DNA might be damaged from radiation, tobacco smoke or other environmental agents, or maybe it’s just a stroke of bad luck.
Whatever causes it, this mutation makes the cell divide uncontrollably, basically making clones of themselves. As the cells pile up, a tumor grows. If it grows big enough it can harm nearby organs and tissues or sometimes a part of the tumor can break off and take up residence in other parts of the body, which is when cancer metastasizes.
There’s another idea, that stem cells trigger tumors. These wonky stem cells drive tumor growth and just like normal stem cells can give rise to differentiated cells. These stem cells are especially good at resisting treatment like chemotherapy.
ChemotherapyChemotherapy might wipe out those differentiated cells, but leave the cancer stem cells behind, so they come back stronger and in greater numbers.
Chemotherapy is a brutal process, the first chemotherapy drugs were a derivative of mustard gas. It does have the nifty ability to stop cell growth. Which is handy when dealing with runaway cell growth. But it can also harm other type of cells that grow a lot, like hair follicles.
While modern drugs work in other ways, they’re still pretty nasty. With the usual side effects of hair loss, fatigue, nausea, and a knocking out of the immune system.
Radiation and SurgeryAnother way we attack tumor cells is through radiation, where radiation beams are aimed at a tumor and stop its growth by damaging DNA.
While the immediate side effects are minimal, it might feel like a sunburn. Other long-term effects might be more damaging. Radiation isn’t 100% effective. Some tumor cells could get left behind, which is a problem with surgery too.
Some of these treatments are nasty, painful and seem to leave the job unfinished. So why haven’t we come up with anything better? Well there’ve been some cool new ideas put forward recently.
Researchers from Duke University are looking to treat tumors with polio. Polio, a horrible virus, used to run rampant and kill thousands of people a year and paralyze thousands more until the introduction of a vaccine in 1955.
Cool Ways to Terminate TumorsYou’d think the world would never want to see the disease again. Yet over the past few decades scientists have re-engineered the virus which seems to knock out a brain tumor’s defenses, allowing the patient’s immune system to finish the job.
Another new idea might make surgery a little easier. Some researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle propose injecting people with scorpion venom. The venom is injected into the patient's blood stream, crosses the blood-brain barrier, and makes its way into the brain tumor.
Tumor Paint, as it’s appropriately called consists of two parts.
Scorpion venom has to find it’s way to the brain of its prey to paralyze it. Turns out that same compound binds really well the surface of brain tumor cells.
The other part of Tumor Paint lights up under fluorescent light. This could be huge. That way brain surgeons can see the tumor literally glowing and see where the tumor stops and the healthy brain tissue starts.