Beyond The Shock – Chapter 3 – Breast Cancer – Growth of Cancer

Beyond The Shock – Chapter 3 – Breast Cancer – Growth of Cancer


The growth and spread of cancer can be difficult
to grasp because cancer cell growth is fueled by usually healthy chemicals of the body. Medical professionals usually illustrate these
chemicals with complex diagrams and scientific formulae. But let’s simplify it: circles are estrogen,
squares are progesterone, and triangles are the HER2/neu gene. These three bodily chemicals can stimulate
the growth of breast cancer tumors. Receptors
To understand how these chemicals fuel cancer cell growth, we must first define something
called a ‘receptor’. Here is a simplified illustration of a cancer
cell. Notice the receptors for estrogen and progesterone. Think of a receptor as a mouth: when open,
cancer cells can feed and grow. When blocked off, the same cells begin to
starve. This particular cancer cell feeds off of the
hormones estrogen and progesterone. Now, this is a protein that is involved in
cell growth, the HER2/neu protein. When a breast cell has more than two copies
of this gene, the genes begin overproducing the HER2/neu protein. As a result, the affected cells rapidly grow
and divide, forming a tumor. By identifying the cancer’s unique receptors,
your doctor can recommend effective treatment methods to block the receptors. Remember, inhibiting the cancer’s “food
supply” works to restrict the cancer’s growth. More information about specific hormone treatments
will be discussed in Sub-chapter 6.10.

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