Can surgery provoke the outgrowth of latent breast cancer? A unifying hypothesis

M. W. Retsky, R. Demicheli, W. J. M. Hrushesky, M. Baum, I. D. Gukas

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To explain bimodal relapse patterns, we have previously suggested that metastatic breast cancer growth commonly includes periods of temporary dormancy at both the single cell and avascular micrometastasis phases (with 1 year and 2 year half-lives respectively). We further suggested that primary surgery sometimes initiates growth of distant dormant disease accelerating relapse. These iatrogenic events are common in that they occur in over half of all relapses. Surgery induced angiogenesis is mostly confined to premenopausal node positive patients in which case 20% of patients are so affected. We review here how this hypothesis explains a vairety of previously unrelated breast cancer phenomenon including 1) the mammography paradox for women age 40–49 untreated with adjuvant therapy, 2) the particularly high benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy for premenopausal node positive patients, 3) the heterogeneity of breast cancer, 4) the aggressiveness of cancer in young women, 5) the outcome differences with timing of surgery within the menstrual cycle, 6) the common myths regarding cancer spreading “when the air hits it” and treatment “provoking” the tumor, 7) the excess mortality of blacks over whites, and 8) reports from physicians 2000 years ago. In parallel to physicists who have long sought to explain all of physics with a unified field theory, we now suggest temporary dormancy together with surgery induced tumor growth provides a unifying theory for much of breat cancer.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere7
Pages (from-to)1-6
JournalBreast Cancer Online
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007

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