What are the Characteristics of Cancer Disease

What are the Characteristics of Cancer ?

What are the Characteristics of Cancer, an important question whether beningn or malignant may show different characteristics, but these characteristics of cancer are different for both beningn cancer and malignant cancer. Certain features may also show innocence while other show malignancy. The ability of beningn cancer like, it is capsulated make it different from malignant cancer which is non capsulated, it spreads to the surrounding tissues more rapidly and suppress the growth of the surrounding normal tissue, thus cause more destructible effect on the body.


What are the Characteristics of Cancer ?

The following are the characteristics of cancer:

  • Differentiation and Anaplasia
  • Growth rate of Cancer
  • Local Invasion
  • Metastasis


What are the Characteristics of Cancer

Differentiation and Anaplasia:

Differentiation defined as the extent to which the cancer cells resemble their precursors morphologically and functionally. The differentiation and anaplasia only occur in parenchymal tissues and do not occur in Stroma. The Stroma is crucial for the blood supply for cancer cells but it has no role in differentiation in between beningn cancer and malignant cancer cells. The stromal tissue however determines the consistency of the cancer. Stroma cancer has hard and dense abundant Fibrous Stroma so called Scirrhous Stroma.

Beningn Cancers are composed of well differentiated cells that resemble with normal cell and mitosis is rare. Malignant cell have wide range of parenchymal differentiation from well differentiation to completely un-differentiation. More the differentiation, more capability to perform normal functions.

Malignant Cancers are composed of undifferentiated cells that are called as Anaplasia. Anaplasia is Hallmark of malignancy. The term anaplasia literally means “before backward” means loss of structural and functional differentiation of normal cell.

Anaplasia have well marked pleomorphism (“pleomorphism” which means marked variation in size and shape of cell).

The cell shows following features:

Mitosis are numerous and atypical,

Nucleus are hyperchromic,

Ratio of nucleus to cytoplasm became equal(1:1)

Giant cells are larger,

Anaplastic cells have numerous and bizarre shaped.

Dyslasia is a term referred to loss in the uniformity of individual cells in their architectural orientation. When dysplastic cells involve the entire thickness of epithelial tissue it referred as carcinoma in situ which is pre invasive stage of cancer. Dysplastic changes are often found adjacent to the foci of malignant cells but dysplasia does not always progress to cancer.


Rate Of Growth of Cancer:

Most cancers grow more rapidly eventually spreading to the surrounding tissues and metastasize and thus causing death. Beningn tumor grows slower except leiomyoma of uterus which grow faster due to increasing level of estrogen. The rate of growth of malignant cancer depends upon the level of differentiation, like more rapidly growing cancers are poorly differentiated. Rapidly growing cancers often contain central area of ischemic necrosis because the cancer blood supply, derived from host is not enough to keep pace to the oxygent need of expanding mass of cancer cells.

A clinically detectable cancer contains a heterogenous population of cells, which originated from single clonal cell.


Local Invasion of Cancer:

A beningn tumor remain localized at its site of origin, it does not invade, infiltrate, or metastasize to distant sites as do malignant cancer, The beningn tumor are encapsulated. The capsule is derived from the stroma of host tissue.

Malignant Cancer grow by progressive infiltration, invasion, destruction and penetration of the surrounding tissue. These are non capsulated. Local invasion is the most important features that distinguish in between beningn and malignant cancers.



Metastasis is defined as the secondary implant discontinuous with the primary cancer, in remote tissues. The properties of invasiveness and even more identify a neoplasm as malignant as any of other attribute to cancer. Not every cancer metastasize, there are few exceptions of basal cell carcinoma of skin and cancers of central nervous system which rarely metastasize. Generally, the more anaplastic cells the larger the cancer mass, more will be metastasize. But here is also few exceptions like some small cancers may also metastasize, while some large cancer cannot metastasize.


Malignant cancers are disseminated through 3ways:

  1. Seeding within the body cavities
  2. Lymphatic Spread
  3. Hematogenous Spread


Spread by Seeding: This spreading occur when cancer cells invade the body cavities. Cancer of ovary particularly disseminate through this pathway.

Lymphatic Spread: Lymphatic spread is more characteristic of carcinoma. The pattern of lymph node involvement depends principally on the side of primary cancer and the pathway of lymphatic drainage of the site. Some time the cancer cell traverse the lymphatic channels within the immediately proximate nodes to be trapped in subsequent lymph nodes producing skip lesion. A sentinel lymph node is first lymph node in a regional lymphatic basin that receives lymph flow from primary cancer.

Hematogenous Spread: Hematogenous Spread is the most feared pathway of the cancer. It is best for sarcoma cancer. The liver and lungs are the most frequently sides for hematogenous spread.

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