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Cells and cancer

Dr Catherine Koleda, from Wellington Hospital, explains what happens to the cells in your body when you have cancer.


A cancer cell differs in its appearance and its behaviour. It doesn't look like a normal cell, often you have a nucleus that is enlarged, and often the cancer cells are proliferating in a very disorganised way, and you can see that when you look down the microscope. In terms of behaviour because the cells are proliferating in a disorganised fashion, they can tend to take over the bodies tissues and grow without being regulated.

Tissue with cancer in it often feels very hard, compared to normal tissue, and its for several reasons. Firstly its because the cancer cells are proliferating so rapidly that they are very densely compacted within the tissue, so that could contribute to the hardness. The other thing though is that cancer cells often encourage the body to produce a stroma, almost like a scar tissue reaction. The cancer cells are trying to invade the body and the body is trying to stop the cancer cells from invading in whatever way it can.

Capital & Coast District Health Board
Louise Goossens, Wellington School of Medicine


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