( Originally Published 1918 )
MANY women, if asked to name the disease they fear most, would at once mention cancer, and, indeed, not only cancer, but all forms of tumor are the dread of every woman.
Correctly speaking, any swelling is a tumor, but pathologically considered, a tumor is a circumscribed new growth of tissue, or a neoplasm. In other words a tumor is simply an overgrowth of the tissue in which it originates, as it is composed of the same kind of cells, this fact being made the basis of a histological classification of tumors, according to the four fundamental embryological tissues, viz., nervous, muscular, epithelial and connective.
For practical purposes, however, tumors are classified according to their ultimate effect upon the body, as benign, or those which do not of themselves disturb the general health and well-being of the individual, and malignant, or those which do. Certain cysts and fibroid tumors are usually classed as benign, and carcinoma and sarcoma as malignant. The malignant tumors are commonly called cancer. That this classification is not a constant one is seen by the fact that the most benign tumor may change into a malignant one.
Many theories have been advanced as to the cause of tumors, and especially of cancer, but as yet medical science has no reliable information to offer on the subject.
Some think the new growths are due to cells which have been misplaced by Nature in the development of the individual, and for some reason have suddenly begun to multiply; others, that bacteria and protozoa may be the cause ; others again that the mutual relationship between cells or groups of cells is destroyed and the normal restraint of growth removed, resulting in rapid proliferation. Still others believe that irritation, mechanical, chemical, or other, stimulates reproduction of cells.
It is certain that tumors are dependent upon the blood and lymph for their nutrition, and this being so it seems reasonable to suppose that toxins might be carried to and retained in cells, thus producing a continued irritation, which Nature attempts to combat by producing new cells. In other words the chief cause of tumors, including cancer, is the retention of foreign substances in the blood, and this again is due to faulty elimination and the ingestion of toxic material, in the shape of too much food, wrong food, drugs, serums, and antitoxins. Cancer seems to be more prevalent among meat-eating nations, but as it is also found among vegetarians, we must look for a deeper cause. It is probable that meat simply introduces a certain amount of poison into the system and thus is a potent factor in the general toxicity of the body. Excesses in certain foods, cooked foods, lack of organic salts, alcohol, and intestinal fermentation, have all been mentioned as contributing agents. Beneath it all is poison.
Tumors sometimes arise following a blow, as in the case of cancer of the breast, and sarcoma of bone. In such cases cells are injured, and the surrounding tissues are irritated by the sub-stances formed in the decomposed cells. We also know that the constant irritation of a broken tooth will induce cancer of the mouth or tongue, as will the continual irritation of a pipe or cigar on the lip. Fundamentally however, even in these cases, there must be the condition of either toxic blood, or poor circulation.
FIBROIDS.—These are the most common tumors affecting women, and, although occurring in various parts of the body, the most common site is the uterus. They are more often present in early and middle adult life, and have no connection with childbearing ;—in fact they are more common in the unmarried and in married women who have no children. Cancer is more common in women who have had children.
The tumor may be very small and grow very slowly, or remain small, in which case it presents . no symptoms and causes no trouble, and usually needs no treatment. If not in the inner layers of the uterine wall it is usually no bar to pregnancy and normal childbirth. In many cases, however, it grows slowly and may become very large, causing destruction of surrounding tissues and pressure symptoms in other parts of the body. It may also ulcerate and cause hemorrhage, and undergo malignant degeneration, so you can readily see that the name benign tumor does not mean much. About the first symptoms of uterine fibroid are disturbances of menstruation, such as painful and profuse, or continued, flow, and in some cases diminished flow. There may be sterility and, if pregnancy does occur, occasionally abortion. There may be a persistent leucorrhea. As the tumor increases in size there are symptoms referable to pressure, as pain, varicose veins and edema of the lower extremities, piles, constipation and urinary difficulty. Death rarely results from the tumor itself, fatality being due to complications and disturbance of functions of other organs through pressure.
CANCER OF THE UTERUS.—The uterus and the surrounding tissues are the most common seat of cancer in the human body. It may be either carcinoma or sarcoma, and starting at any one point will spread rapidly, destroying all tissues in the locality. It may begin in the cervix, the body of the uterus, the vagina, the tubes, or the rectum and bladder.
The first local sign is usually a small abrasion or ulcer which bleeds when touched. Gradually there is a thickening and ulceration of the tissues, which may become infected and suppurate. Secondary growths may appear elsewhere. The woman first notices a continual leucorrhea with an occasional tinge of blood. Cancer of the uterus is more common in women past the child-bearing period of life; therefore any show of blood at this time is a cause of suspicion and warrants a careful examination. Symptoms of tumor in a woman past the change-of-life period are more apt to indicate cancer than fibroid.
As the growth and destruction progresses there will be occasional hemorrhages and a watery leucorrhea, brownish in color, and in carcinoma possessing a characteristically foul odor. As the disease progresses the general health suffers, the patient gradually becoming emaciated, the skin a yellowish-brown color, and the strength depleted, all of these constituting the so-called cancer cachexia. The usual duration of the disease is from one to three years, depending upon the rate of growth. When the condition is localized and there is no absorption of toxins into the general system there may be no constitutional symptoms and the condition may not be discovered until great destruction has taken place. The worry incident to the condition often helps to run down the health. When the body of the uterus is first attacked pain is one of the earliest symptoms. This may be of a burning character, but at times is sharp and extends to the back and down the thigh.
POLYPI.-These consist of small tumor-like growths attached to the mucous membrane of the uterus. They are soft in consistency and bright-red in color. They are very vascular and bleed easily. The symptoms are hemorrhage and a continued leucorrhea, together with inflammation of the uterus, menstrual pain, abortion or sterility.
CYSTS.—These are most often found in the ovaries and tubes. Ninety-five per cent of the tumors of the ovary are cystic. A cyst is a circumscribed area containing retained secretions from a gland, or fluid from inflammation of suppuration. The most common cyst of the ovary is called a proliferating cyst, from its habit of forming multiple cysts within itself. This is the one usually spoken of as ovarian tumor. When small there are no symptoms, and they seldom give rise to any serious trouble. They grow slowly and may not be discovered until they have attained a very large size. The first symptom noticed is a sense of something heavy in the lower abdomen and a feeling of pressure. A little later a slight enlargement is noticed, which may give rise to a belief that pregnancy has occurred. There are menstrual disturbances, bladder irritability and constipation. The bowel movements may be painful. The pressure of the growing tumor may cause swelling of the lower limbs and pain. Dyspepsia and other gastric symptoms may be present, due to pressure on the stomach and intestines. There may be progressive weakness and emaciation. Rarely there may be a local peritonitis, with fever and severe abdominal and pelvic pain. Severe hemorrhage from the uterus has occurred, and rupture of the cyst from a fall or blow, followed by a fatal peritonitis, is possible.
BREAST TUMORS.-The breast is really a very delicate organ, and especially subject to new growths, particularly following injury, or glandular disturbances. Fibroid tumors of the breast are fairly common. These grow slowly, but may become quite large and may finally ulcerate through the skin and project from the breast in fungoid-like masses, which may be mistaken for cancer. This tumor destroys the glandular tissue of the breast by pressure.
The most destructive tumor of the breast, how-ever, is carcinoma, which occurs most commonly in women between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five. It begins as a small hard lump which gradually enlarges and spreads until the entire breast and the adjacent tissues are involved. The cancer may ulcerate through the skin or remain deep-seated. In many cases the nipple is retracted until entirely out of sight. Pain is a most constant symptom, and signs of inflammation may be present. The glands under the arm en-large and may become tender.
All lumps in the breast are not cancer, but any nodule should be carefully watched and if it enlarges, cancer should be suspected. Retained secretions in the glands or milk-ducts often pro-duce hard lumps very similar to tumors.
Whenever the breast has been bruised in any way it should be immediately treated by the application of hot and cold packs to stimulate circulation and promote absorption of the transfused blood. Nodules or lumps should never be manipulated or massaged unless their true nature is known, as malignant growths increase more rap-idly when thus stimulated.
Treatment of Tumors.—We might be criticized for taking up the treatment of tumors under a general heading, for many who have been accustomed to think of cancer and tumor as separate entities, and due to different causes, will imagine that a separate form of treatment is necessary for each type of tumor. As we have shown, all tumors are due to the same cause, and only differ according to the tissue in which found, and the intensity of the causative agent. Tumor, including cancer, is not a local condition, but is the local expression of a constitutional disease.
Early and complete removal by surgical operation is the classical treatment for all forms of tumor. Where the growth is still localized this may be efficient treatment, if accompanied by constitutional treatment which is designed to purify the blood and remove the cause, but without the constitutional treatment, the tumor may return and more rapid decline follow.
The use of caustics, X-Ray, Finsen lights, radium and other forms of treatment have all been tried with great hopes that at last a cure had been found, but all have been failures. Indeed in many cases the means used for a cure have hastened the growth of the tumor.
The best of the local applications, which is still in its infancy, but which promises most as far as local treatment is concerned, is the application, by suitable apparatus, of intense heat, which literally cooks and chars the tumor without injuring the normal tissues.
But what is the real cure for tumors and cancer? If local treatments have failed, why not try what constitutional methods will do, and get at the seat of the trouble, by removing the cause.
First of all we should live in such a way that tumors are impossible. All women should get out of doors into the fresh air and sunlight more, and take active exercise.
Next, the intestinal tract must be made as clean as possible, preferably by a diet of uncooked food, or one in which fruits, green salads and other raw foods predominate.
Hot applications may be used for the relief of pain, and in cases of pelvic tumors with pain, the hot sitz bath is effective.