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cancer-therapies-emb.JPG (8305 bytes) HOL-emblem1-web.GIF (3556 bytes)

Effects of Cancer on The Body Functions

There are many different local effects of cancer. Tumors may become very large and compress or displace surrounding structures. Tumors can erode and damage organs and blood vessels, block tubes, destroy vital functional tissue, form abnormal connections between organs and body cavities, and promote internal bleeding and the production of abnormal quantities of fluid. Below are examples of the possible local effects of some specific cancers.

Cancer of the esophagus may cause such an obstruction that only small quantities of food can enter the stomach. The result may be severe malnutrition. In some cases, liquid but not solid food may pass. The obstruction may result from the tumor protruding into the esophagus or from a ring-like narrowing. local-stomach.GIF (1462 bytes)
The front wall of part of the rectum is in close contact with the back wall of the vagina. A rectal tumor in this location may break through the vaginal wall so that feces and intestinal gas can pass into the vagina. Such a cancerous tumor can also break through into the bladder, causing urinary infection, secondary damage to the kidneys, and gas in the urine. local-rectum.GIF (2151 bytes)
It is common for lung cancer to grow to obstruct one of the small bronchial tubes leading to a lobule or lobe of the lung. Such obstruction may lead to reduced lung efficiency and invariably causes collapse of the segment of the lung beyond the obstruction. Rarely, lung cancer can erode a large artery, leading to severe and possibly uncontrollable bleeding into the lung accompanied by the coughing up of bloodstained sputum or pure blood. local-lung.GIF (2630 bytes)
Cancer of the prostate occasionally obstructs the outflow of urine so that only a small amount of urine is able to be passed at a time and only when the bladder is very full and at maximum tension. This causes repeated attempts to urinate at short intervals and great disturbance of sleep. Such outflow obstruction leads to severe pressure in the bladder and ureters and can eventually result in loss of kidney function. local-prostate.GIF (2207 bytes)
Cancers may encroach on nerves and destroy their function, so that the muscles supplied by the nerves are paralyzed. This commonly involves damage to one of the nerves that control the vocal cords. These nerves loop down into the chest and are often involved in cancer of the lung. The nerve damage may lead to a severe hoarseness due to paralysis of one of the vocal cords.
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Cancer of the head of the pancreas commonly causes obstruction of the pancreatic and bile ducts at the point at which these ducts open together into the small intestine. This has several effects. The digestive juices from the pancreas cannot get into the intestine so digestion and absorption are affected and the enzymes trapped in the pancreas may start to digest the organ itself, Blockage of the bile duct causes bile pigments to accumulate in the liver and then in the blood, leading to progressively worsening jaundice from staining of the skin by bile. local-pancreas.GIF (1905 bytes)

From: Fighting Cancer, American Medical Association Home Medical Library, Published by Readers Digest

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