How does the body die from cancer

How does the body die from cancer?

When a cancer cell is killed or dies an immune response occurs.

This means many things are happening that are involved with the immune system. One of the bodies many partners in the immune system is the macrophage cell.

A macrophage cell can literally detect dead cells through smell, much like a scavenger bird detects dead animals. Whenever dead cells reach the part of the bloodstream patrolled by a macrophage, the macrophages surround them and convert dead cancer cells into easily removed components, this is called “Efferocytosis“.

All living (human) cells have a “cell membrane” around their outside that separates them from each other and from all the other stuff in our tissues. Also, cells have “organelles” inside them (a nucleus, mitochondria, ribosomes, lysosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, etc.), and some of those structures are also surrounded by membranes.

The membranes are critical because they keep everything in its place. Imagine a kind of like a zip-lock bag that keeps stuff separated in your picnic cooler. The membranes around the lysosomes are especially important because lysosomes contain the enzymes that cells use to digest the things they eat.

Okay, so what happens after a cell dies?

(There are two main ways a cell can die ~ necrosis, or apoptosis). Regardless of what causes a cell to die, whether it’s a lack of oxygen, physical damage, chemical poisoning, energy starvation, nutrient overload, etc., the outcome will pretty much be the same.

All the biochemical pathways that allowed the cell to perform its normal functions and what held it together physically will stop when the cell dies. Those membranes around the outside of the cell and on the inside (keeping all those innards separated) will become leaky. That leakiness will allow enzymes and chemicals that are inside the cell to leak out, and other chemicals and fluids that are supposed to stay outside the cell will pass in.

The zip-lock baggies full of enzymes (the lysosomes) will ooze, and their contents will begin to digest the insides of the cell. The chromosomes that were arranged so nicely in the nucleus of the cell will break into small pieces. Proteins in the cell (and there are lots of proteins) will “denature”. Basically, the chemical bonds in the proteins will fall apart, causing the proteins to lose their normal shape and get all wadded up. (Think of what happens when you fry an egg. All that protein is being denatured.) The lipid membranes will continue to degrade.

An Immune Response Begins

While all this is going on inside the cell, the stuff that’s leaking out of it will attract scavengers. In this case, the scavengers are white blood cells whose job is to eat (literally) and digest dead things such as dead cells and cell debris. There are two main types of cells that do that: neutrophils and macrophages, both of which are called “phagocytes”.

The neutrophils almost always come from the blood, and they get to the dead cells first. Neutrophils squeeze through the blood vessel walls and move to where the dead cells are. Macrophages take a little longer to arrive and also come from the blood, but there are also lots of macrophage-type cells already in the tissues of the body (in addition to those in the blood). They’re sort of like resident garbage collectors. Neutrophils and macrophages are attracted by chemical signals released by the dying/dead cells.

Once the neutrophils and macrophages (the phagocytes) get to where the dead cells are, they start eating them.

By that time, there won’t be much left of the dead cells except random chunks and hollowed-out (digested) bags filled with molecular slush. So it’s usually not difficult for the phagocytes to eat that debris and digest it completely. Everything gets recycled, all the proteins and sugars, the nucleic acids, the energy-containing components, all of it gets reused by other cells. Nothing goes to waste. Dead cancer cells are as tasty to a phagocyte as any other type of dead cell.

The dead cells cannot “re-enter the bloodstream” once they’ve been digested by macrophages, because the digestion process breaks down the chunks into individual chemical components (amino acids, lipids, sugars, minerals).

The dead cells will not pass into the intestinal tract to be disposed of.  All that stuff in the lower intestinal tract is stuff we’ve eaten but have not digested and absorbed, like plant fibers (cellulose, lignin) and intestinal bacteria. The cells in the wall of the intestine will add a little mucus and some water to slide things along more easily. And, as those intestinal cells grow old and die, they will be sloughed off into the intestinal contents.

Dead cancer cells will not end up being flushed down your toilet just unwanted waste from the dead cancer cells. This happens every day to dead normal cells and dead cancer cells that are moved from the immune system through the intestine, kidney and/or liver as a result of “Slough” (A layer or mass of dead tissue separated from surrounding living tissue, as in a wound, sore, or inflammation).

A Journey Through The Healing Process

how does the body die from cancer

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Lorraine

    My dog has Hemangiosarcoma. When the tumor is detached from the blood supply, will the blood filled tumor rupture and my poor dog will bleed to death? Don’t want the precarious tumor to rupture or bleed out too quickly.

    1. Admin

      Hi Lorraine, most of the time they are small blood vessels that are severing from the tumor over time, not all at once. A bandage applied should stop the bleeding, this may occur several times until the tumor is completely dead from the treatment you are using. The only other method is the surgical removal of the tumor.

  2. Nancy

    Hi my mum has squamous cell carcinoma on her gum, she is very old she tried radiotherapy but she couldn’t take the treatment. She is now doing natural remedies boosting her immunity. I see the tumour becoming bumpy as if shedding off. Are the cells dying or this is something else.

    1. Admin

      Hello sorry, your Mum is going through this. It is hard to tell without a lot of information is the honest answer. Squamous is a deep growing type of skin cancer, typically twice the size of what you see on the surface of the skin. Depending on what all she is doing the bumps may be part of an eschar effect. This is discussed here
      Mohs surgery may be the best approach if it has progressed extensively.

  3. Joanna Lambrick

    Hi, I started chemo a few weeks ago. My tumours have visibly become small however my ca153 marker has gone up.
    I read your post regarding dead cancer cells being eaten up and not entering the blood stream again.
    Is this always the case?

    With gratitude

    1. Admin

      Hi Joanna, tumor volume decrease is a good sign, it is common that ca15-3 markers and other markers go up during treatments. Here are some studies on the topic
      The dead cells cancer or good cells that have died during the treatment go through the process described in the article. Circulating Cancer cells are a different topic, they are typically outliers that are far from the actual tumors. There is a lot to this disease, it is best to discuss these questions with your care providers, they have all the information that is specific to your situation. Getting answers is not always easy, so educating is also good to help with the understanding of the response. Stay strong, no fear, and fight!

  4. Brooke

    My 4 month old daughter has a brain tumor, part of that tumor has been resected and she is now on a targeted gene fusion treatment. Her right side bone flap is still missing but we are scheduled to have it placed back in a couple weeks. Being that her bone flap isn’t intact, she experiences “swelling” from time to time. Nothing too serious to where her surgeon is concerned BUT I am wondering if it may be from the break down of tumor? When her tumor breaks down and dies off, would it turn into a liquid thus causing more fluid in her head? Then appear swollen for a short period of time and then decrease again? The “swelling” doesn’t last long, maybe a day or two. I am just curious to know if it might be from the breakdown of cells? Going from mass to liquid?

    1. Admin

      Hi Brooke, sorry your loved one is going through this. I believe that the bone flap was left out to allow for swelling to occur during the treatment, this may help with the effects that occur from the inflammation (swelling). Inflammation occurs from many treatments if they are providing efficacy against the cancer cells. Keeping in simple language, when a good cell or cancer cell dies for just about any reason it triggers an immune response, to remove that dead cell. Theses cells are broken down by the immune system in most cases a liquid (white blood cells) and carried to the lymphatic nodes. Some times there is scar tissue that may remain or the time it takes for the dead to be removed is dependent upon the location of the “tumor” or the immune strength of the individual. There are many factors that should be discussed with your physician to plan additional items to help with strengthing the immune. Hydration and movement are 2 key factors to help the lymphatic system do its job. Bless your loved one with the outcome we all desire.

  5. Catherine

    Does this work the same way of a person is not doing surgery/chemo/radiation? Does using natural methods cause the same type of cell die off? Thanks so much!

    1. Admin

      Yes, but all therapies are not the same conventional or naturopathic, there are many things to take into consideration, the strength of the immune, hydration, health profile, etc. All have a correlation to die off (Herx) and the removal of the dead cells.

  6. Linda Scott

    My husband has squaoma cell cancer in his sinuses, ear and jaw he is on radiation and just started chemo. There is stuff coming out of his sinuses, is this normal?

    1. Admin

      Yes, Unfortunately. Once massive cell death occurs from therapies such as radiation and chemo both cancer cells and healthy cells will die. This triggers an immune response in an effort to remove the dead cells, excretion and drainage are one of several methods the body uses.

  7. Vidhi singh

    Can dead cancer cells be used in cancer detection like if we inject dead cancer cells inside body then it will make antibodies against it ,and if any carcinogen or oncogenic virus enter then those antibodies will be able to fight and kill them. is it possible?

    1. Kevin

      Once a cancer cell dies it is just like any dead tissue, so injecting dead cells would not have any benefit.

  8. Ellen

    My dog has a tumor in his mouth. He’s experiencing lots of bleeding. The blood is very tissuey. He just had immunotherapy. Is the tissue a reaction from the immunotherapy and the cancer dying?

    1. Sara

      Hello Ellen. Different immune system responses can be triggered by different types of immunotherapies, and what you describe may be one of them. We would suggest to consult directly with your dog’s health provider for specific information on the types of reactions that particular immunotherapy could cause.

  9. Ravindra Kirtane

    wonderful article. Thanks for this info. I am happy to read & I confirm that the same thing is happening with my friend. His tumor is reducing & lot of unknown things are coming out through his stool.

    1. Sara

      Hi Ravindra. Thank you for the update, we are very happy to hear the CC treatment is helping your friend. Stool immune system responses are important to monitor and just another indication we are getting rid of all the baddies inside.

  10. Roberta Jacobs

    Very Helpful Thank YOU

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