A tumor in its original meaning signifies a swelling. As commonly used it means a new growth or enlargement of a part, which is not due to injury or inflammation. Tumors occur at all ages, in both sexes, and may attack any part of the body. Tumors are usually divided into benign and malignant growths. In a general way the malignant tumors are painful; they do not move about freely but become fixed to the adjacent parts; their growth is more rapid; they often have no well defined borders; frequently they return after removal; the skin covering them is often attached and cannot be moved readily without also moving the tumor. Malignant tumors are divided into cancers (carcinomata) and sarcomas (sarcomata). Cancer is much more frequent than sarcoma. Cancer occurs more often in persons over thirty; there appears to be a hereditary tendency to it in some families, and a number of individuals in the same house or locality sometimes develop cancer as if it were in some way communicated from one to another. The common situations of cancer are the breast and womb in women, and the lip and stomach of men. The neighboring glands become enlarged, as are shown by the lumps which form under the jaw in cancer of the lip, and which may be felt sometimes in the armpit in cancer of the breast; these are, however, late signs, and the growth should never be permitted to remain long enough for them to develop. Paleness, weakness, and loss of strength often attend the development of cancer, but many do not exhibit these symptoms.
There are, of course, many comparatively harmless or benign forms of tumors which will not return if removed and do not endanger life unless they grow to a large size. Among these are the soft, flattened, fatty tumors of the shoulders, back, buttocks, and other parts, and the wen. This is often seen on the head and occurs frequently on the scalp, from the size of a pea to an egg, in groups. Wens are elastic lumps, painless and of slow growth, and most readily removed. Space does not permit us to recount the other forms of benign tumors and it would be impossible to describe how they could be distinguished from malignant growths.
Causes. The causes of tumors are almost wholly unknown. There is no other branch of medicine which is receiving more scientific study the world over than cancer, and some definite and helpful knowledge may soon be expected. A cancer can be communicated by introduction of cancerous material into healthy tissues. This and other reasons have led many to believe that the disease was caused by a special germ; a chemical cause is thought to be the origin of cancer by other authorities. Neither of these theories has been substantiated and we are still completely at sea in the matter. Cancer appears to be excited sometimes by local irritation, as in the lip by the constant irritation of the hard, hot stem of a clay pipe; cancer of the tongue by the irritation of a rough, sharp tooth. Blows and injuries are also occasional agencies in the development of cancer. Malignant growths not rarely arise from moles and warts.
Treatment. Early removal by the knife is the only form of treatment which is to be considered in most cases. Delay and neglect are suicidal in malignant disease. Cure is successful in just so far as the operation is done early. If dread of surgical operation were not so prevalent, the results of removal of cancer would be immeasurably better. The common, bad results of operation that is, return of the disease are chiefly due to the late stage in which surgeons are compelled to operate through the reluctance of the patient and, strangely enough, often of his family medical man. Cancer should be removed in so early a stage that its true nature can often not be recognized, except by microscopical examination after its removal. If Maurice Richardson’s rule were followed, many cancers would never occur, or would be removed before they had developed sufficiently to show their nature.
All treatment by chemical pastes and special remedies is simply courting fatal results. Most special cures advertised to be performed in sanitoriums are money getting humbugs. Even the X ray has proved useless except in the case of most superficial growths limited to the skin or when directed against the scar left by removal of a cancer; and while the growth may disappear during treatment, in a large proportion of cases there is a recurrence. But when tumors are so far advanced that removal by the knife is inoperable, then other means will often secure great relief from suffering and will prolong life for a very considerable period in many cases.