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Ignatavicius: Medical-Surgical Nursing, 8th Edition

Chapter 21: Cancer Development

Key Points
The priority concept applied in this chapter is CELLULAR REGULATION.

Most common types of altered cell growth, such as moles or skin tags, are benign (harmless)
and do not require intervention.
Malignant cell growth, or cancer, however, is serious and, without intervention, leads to
Cancer is a common health problem in the United States and Canada.
Nearly 1.5 million people are newly diagnosed with cancer each year.
Some types of cancers can be prevented and others have better cure rates if diagnosed early.


Growth of cells and tissues is expected during infancy and childhood.

Cells located in tissues where there is constant damage or wear continue to grow by
mitosis or cell division long after maturation is complete.
Growth of cells is well controlled through CELLULAR REGULATION , ensuring that the right
number of cells is always present in any tissue or organ.
Growth that causes tissue to increase in size by enlarging each cell is hypertrophy.
Growth that causes tissue to increase in size by increasing the number of cells is
Normal cells have a small nuclear-to-cytoplasmic ratio, have differentiated functions
special to that cell, have tight adherence to each other, are nonmigratory, and have orderly
and well-regulated growth. Orderly and well-regulated growth or CELLULAR REGULATION is a
very important feature of normal cells.
They divide (undergo mitosis) for only two reasons: 1) to develop normal tissue
or 2) to replace lost or damaged normal tissue.
Rapid and continuous cell division is a normal feature of embryonic cells, which spend
most of their time within the cell cycle, actively reproducing.
Apoptosis is programmed cell death. Not only do normal cells have to divide only when
needed and perform their specific differentiated functions, to ensure optimum body function,
but some cells also have to die at the appropriate time.


Cancer cells originate from normal body cells that are capable of cell division.
Transformation of a normal cell into a cancer cell involves mutation of the genes (DNA) of
the normal cell and indicates a problem with CELLULAR REGULATION.

Copyright 2016, 2013, 2010, 2006, 2002 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier Inc.

Key Points


Oncogenes that are overexpressed can cause a cell to develop into a tumor.
The process of changing a normal cell into a cancer cell is called malignant transformation.
o Only one cell has to undergo malignant transformation for cancer to begin.
Benign tumors grow by expansion, whereas malignant tumors grow by invasion.
Most tumors arise from cells that are capable of cell division.
A key feature of cancer cells is the loss of apoptosis. These cells have an infinite life span.
Benign tumor cells are normal cells growing in the wrong place or at the wrong time,
such as moles or nasal polyps.
Malignant cells are abnormal, serve no useful function, and are harmful to normal body
Cancer cells have the following features:
Rapid or continuous cell division
Loss of the specific appearance of their parent cells or anaplasia
Large nuclear-to-cytoplasmic ratio
Loss of specific functions
Loose adherence, which leads to migration or metastasis
Metastasis is a key feature of cancer cells and a major cause of death.
Abnormal chromosomes or aneuploidy are common in cancer cells as they become more
Anaplasia is the cancer cells loss of the specific appearance of their parent cells.
Carcinogenesis and oncogenesis are other names for cancer development.
Rapid or continuous cell division occurs in many types of cancer cells because they re-enter
the cell cycle for mitosis almost continuously because CELLULAR REGULATION is lost.
The original tumor is called the primary tumor and is identified by the tissue from which it
arose, such as in breast cancer or lung cancer.
Metastasis occurs when cancer cells move from the primary location by breaking off from
the original group and establishing remote colonies called metastatic or secondary tumors.
o Tumors that metastasize from the primary site into another organ are still designated
as tumors of the originating tissue.
o Spread to distant organs and tissues requires cancer cells to penetrate blood vessels,
called bloodborne metastasis.
o Another way cancers metastasize is by lymphatic spread.
Cancers are classified by the type of tissue from which they arise, such as connective tissue
o Other ways to classify cancer include biologic behavior, anatomic site, and degree of
Systems of grading and staging have been developed to help standardize cancer diagnosis,
prognosis, and treatment.
o Grading of a tumor classifies cellular aspects of the cancer.
o Grading also allows health care professionals to evaluate the results of management
and compare local, regional, national, and international statistics.
Ploidy classifies tumor chromosomes as normal or abnormal.
Staging classifies clinical aspects of the cancer.

Copyright 2016, 2013, 2010, 2006, 2002 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier Inc.

Key Points


o The American Joint Committee on Cancer developed the tumor, node, metastasis
(TNM) system to describe the general anatomic extent of cancers.
o The stages guide treatment and are useful for prognosis and comparison of treatment
o TNM staging is not useful for leukemias or lymphomas.
o Additional specific staging systems include Dukes staging of colon and rectal cancer
and Clarks levels method of staging skin cancer.
Carcinogenesis takes years and depends on several tumor and patient factors.
The three interacting factors that influence cancer development are exposure to carcinogens,
genetic predisposition, and immune function, accounting for variation from one person to
External factors, including environmental exposure, are responsible for about 80% of cancer
in North America.
Personal factors, including immune function, age, and genetic risk, also affect whether a
person is likely to develop cancer.
Genetic risk for cancer occurs in a small percentage of the population; however, people who
have a genetic predisposition are at very high risk for cancer development.
o Patterns of genetic risk for cancer have also been identified, including inherited
predisposition, inherited conditions associated with cancer, and familial clustering.
An emerging issue in this area is that studies of chemoprevention performed using animal
models does not always correlate to a reduction of carcinogenesis in humans.
In addition, there is person-to-person variability in human response to chemoprevention.
It is likely that individual genetic factors influence the effectiveness of any agent in the
prevention of carcinogenesis.


Cancer prevention activities can focus on primary prevention or secondary prevention.

Primary prevention is the use of strategies to prevent the actual occurrence of cancer, most
effective when there is a known cause for a cancer type.
Secondary prevention is the use of screening strategies to detect cancer early, at a time when
cure or control is more likely.
Tobacco use is a causative factor in 30% of all cancers.
o Inform all patients who smoke that smoking increases the risk for development of
many cancer types.
o Assist anyone interested in smoking cessation to find an appropriate smoking
cessation program.
Teach patients to avoid smoking, to avoid excessive intake of animal fat, nitrites, and red
meat and limit alcohol consumption.
Dietary recommendations include eating more bran, cruciferous vegetables, and foods
high in vitamin A and vitamin C.
Teach patients to use sunscreen and to wear protective clothing during sun exposure.

Copyright 2016, 2013, 2010, 2006, 2002 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier Inc.

Key Points


Vaccination is a new method of primary cancer prevention. Gardasil is a vaccine for

preventing infection from several forms of the human papillomavirus. It is hoped that more
vaccines will be developed for prevention of other types of cancers.
Encourage patients to participate in the recommended cancer screening activities for their
age group and cancer risk category.
Obtain a detailed family history (at least three generations) and use this information to
create a pedigree to assess the patients risk for familial or inherited cancer.
Assess the patients knowledge about causes of cancer and his or her
screening/prevention practices.
Assist patients who fear a cancer diagnosis to understand that finding cancer at an early
stage increases the chances for cure.
Ask all patients about their exposures to environmental agents that are known or
suspected to increase the risk for cancer.
Teach everyone, especially older adults, the seven warning signs of cancer:

Change in bowel or bladder habits

A sore that does not heal

Unusual bleeding or discharge

Thickening or lump in the breast, testicles, or elsewhere

Indigestion or difficulty swallowing

Obvious change in the size, color, shape, or thickness of a wart, mole, or

mouth sore

Nagging cough or hoarseness

Teach people who are exposed to asbestos (or any other carcinogen) in the workplace to
use personal protective equipment that reduces direct contact with this substance.

Copyright 2016, 2013, 2010, 2006, 2002 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier Inc.