Archive for May 12th, 2009


‘Incision’ means cutting out part of, ‘excision’ means cutting out the whole of an abnormal area. This can be done with scalpels etc in the form of a mini-operation or with special forceps and other instruments designed to neatly nip off a tiny sample. Such instruments are available for taking specimens from internal lesions through endoscopy tubes. Because of this, endoscopy is a very useful type of test—we can see the abnormality and get a specimen from it in the one procedure. In many cases, these specimens are from spots which, in the past, could only have been biopsied at a full scale operation. Endoscopy can be uncomfortable, Wit it’s certainly much safer, simpler, more convenient and less painful than an operation!

As I explained in the previous section, if lesions can’t be reached through the skin or by endoscopy, an operation may be necessary to get a specimen. As with every type of specimen that consists of only a small fragment of the abnormal area, incision biopsies are only helpful if they are positive, that is, give a definite diagnosis. A negative biopsy can only rule out cancer when the whole lesion is removed and examined under the microscope. An excision biopsy may be recommended whenever a conclusive diagnosis cannot be made using the other methods I have described. In the case of enlarged lymph nodes, it is usually best to remove one completely anyway. This is because lymph node conditions can be diagnosed much more accurately and reliably when the pathologist can see the pattern of the whole node and not just a few cells from one part of it.



Cancer in the bones can also cause the release of large amounts of calcium into the blood. This can cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, metallic taste in the mouth, constipation, muscle weakness, excessive thirst and the passing of large volumes of urine.

Again, there are a number of other possible causes for high blood calcium levels which your doctor would have to consider.

If bone secondaries are suspected, X-rays or bone scans, or both, may be necessary. X-rays of a bone secondary may show a weakened area which looks darker than the normal white bone, because there is less calcium in the affected spot. Sometimes, however, the nearby normal bone reacts very strongly to the presence of cancer cells, producing a calcium-rich area that looks whiter than the normal bone. After successful treatment, healing bone secondaries can also look like this. In some cases bone secondaries do not show up on normal X-rays at all. Quite a lot of bone has to be destroyed before they can be seen. A CT scan of the suspected area is more sensitive, and may be positive when the plain X-ray looks normal.



Do not try to think of an antidote such as weak acid like vinegar or lemon juice, for an alkaline substance. Give large quantities of milk, which can dilute the poison and delay absorption.

This advice also applies to volatile substances like kerosene and petrol where vomiting might lead to the inhalation of fumes which could damage the lungs.

If you have small children in your house or likely to visit you, I would ask you to do three things after reading this article.

FIRST, check your phone book and see where the Poisons Information Centre number is listed, so you will be able to find it in a hurry.

SECONDLY, please see that all substances such as drugs or chemicals are in a secure place. If you don’t have a locked cupboard, get one.

THIRDLY, put on your shopping list for this week a bottle of Syrup of Ipecac from your chemist.