What Is “Mets” and How Do You Stop It?

October 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

“I cried for a half hour or more”
Intuitively, she knew the battle with cancer was not over

I was about to publish a series of posts concerning the effects of sugar on the immune system. Then I got that feeling – that something is wrong, something is missing, something is out-of-place feeling.

Why, at the very last moment as you are about to lock your car door, do you have that feeling? – you hesitate a moment because you got that something is wrong feeling. Then, just-in-time, you realize your keys are still in the ignition.

Why, just as you start your car, do you get that feeling? – that something is out-of-place feeling. Then you realize you left your phone inside on the table.

What thought process triggers that feeling?

I know the comment, “Cancer likes to hide and then sneak up and surprise you… Boo,” in response to a previous post, had been germinating in the back of my mind. Then, just as I was about to publish a post about the effects of sugar on the immune system, I got that feeling – that something is out-of-place feeling.

I believe my thought process went something like this.

  • Suddenly, I realized that this comment wasn’t about finding out you have cancer, it’s about finding out you have cancer again!
  • In that post I had referred to Nancy Stordahl.
  • Nancy Stordahl is a strong advocate for those with metastatic breast cancer (mets) .
  • Statistically “mets” is a ticking time bomb – a shadow always hanging over your head.
  • It’s important to discuss metastatic cancer before discussing the “soil” needed to halt its growth.
  • The “soil” is the “cure.”

In response to that feeling, I am going to discuss “mets” and then in the next series of posts discuss how sugar harms the immune system and supports cancer growth.

Metastatic Cancer  –  Mets

Metastatic cancer or stage IV (for most cancers)  means that cancer has spread to other parts of the body. There is no stage V.

Nancy Stordahl writes in her blog site, Nancy’s Point, about what it is like to have metastatic breast cancer:

“When you hear the words you have cancer, you think you’ve heard the worst, but of course you haven’t. Hearing you are stage IV is far worse. Hearing you will be in treatment for the rest of your life is far worse. Living with uncertainty on a whole different level is far worse.”… “Loneliness and a sense of isolation are very real for those living with mets. No one can completely change this.”

Most cancer sojourners understand, intuitively, that cancer does not have a definite finish line. “Cure” isn’t a word that is applicable. There is always the threat a cancer cell is lying dormant somewhere in your body.

Sally, a 51-year-old breast cancer survivor whose cancer had gone into remission recalled how much she was looking forward to celebrating the end of her treatment. She didn’t celebrate. Instead, she said that after her last treatment, she left the doctor’s office, got into her car, and “cried uncontrollably for half an hour or more.” She knew intuitively that her cancer remission was not necessarily the final chapter in her journey with cancer.

The Threat of Metastasis.

Scientific research supports Sally’s intuition more than she realized.

In early-stage cancer in which the tumor appears to be confined, there are cancer cells that escape into the blood and lymph systems called circulating tumor cells (CTC’s). These cancer cells are seeds of potential future metastasis. Ann Chambers, an oncologist at the London Regional Cancer Program in Canada states: “Not all CTC’s develop into full-blown metastasis. They are merely seeds. To develop they must find the appropriate soil.”

Most people are not aware that there are both active and dormant forms of circulating tumor cells happening simultaneously in almost all cancer patients. These cells have entered the bloodstream or the lymphatic system and have scattered throughout the body. Chemotherapy can affect only active metastatic cells. The dormant cells can lie dormant (not grow) at a distant site for many years before they begin to grow again, if at all.

People who have experienced metastasis (spread of cancer) know that the threat of relapse is never-ending. Cancer patients that have not experienced metastasis may not realize circulating tumor cells are very likely hibernating in their body waiting for the appropriate microenvironment (soil) that supports and encourages their growth. The soil that best supports your immune system is the soil that hinders metastasis. The fate of these circulating tumor cells (the seeds) appears to depend upon their microenvironments.

Medical research is searching for ways to destroy these dormant cells before they reawaken. For now, It is up to the immune system’s constant surveillance to prevent recurrence.

For additional information, I recommend the following articles: Metastasis: The rude awakening (Nature); Circulating Tumor Cells (National Cancer Institute); and, What is metastatic cancer? (author, Tami Boehmer).


Next Post – Part 2:  The “soil” determines the fate of the seed.


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