How are cancer cells similar to household pests?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
You decide who's welcome in your house, right? Your spouse, kids, in-laws, pets...they get the green light. And that means you also have say over who's not welcome-strangers, solicitors, your daughter's ex-boyfriend, and anything that slithers, walks on eight legs, or has a long, leathery tail. Simple construction and a good locksmith allow you to keep most of those unwanted visitors.

Most of them. And that's the problem. As any ingenious teenager who wants to sneak out at night knows, there are other ways in and out of the house. For the teenager, it might be a window. But for ants, flies, spiders, roaches, termites, mice, or any other kinds of miniscule pests, it's through a number of vulnerable spots in your house-a crack in the foundation, a tiny hole in the wall, a sliver of air between the door and the floor. If they want in, they get in-without you even knowing that they did.

Now, if it's an ant here or a spider there, it's no big deal. You squish it, swat it, shoo it, or flush it. But let's say aforementioned ant escapes with his life and decides to let other ants know that the joint at 201 Maple has got some sloppy eaters. In no time, these ants replicate into dozens, maybe hundreds.

So you wipe 'em out with a wet paper towel (or the bottom of your Nike) or poison them with a wave of bug spray. Problem solved. But what would happen if hundreds of pests converged in some obscure corner or closet and you never even knew they were lurking in your home? The group would multiply faster than a math prodigy, and they'd grow and grow and grow until your whole house looked like it was concocted by Stephen King or Alfred Hitchcock. Since you couldn't coexist with a house full of ants, you'd be forced to call a professional to help eradicate them.

In some ways, cancer cells can overrun your body the same way that pests could do it to your house. They have no regard for the traditional rules of your body. They can be hard to catch, and frankly, they frighten the hell out of a lot of people. As individuals, cancer cells aren't all that dangerous; yet when they expand, they prove to be formidable foes.
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

More About this Book

YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

Between your full-length mirror and high-school biology class, you probably think you know a lot about the human body. While it's true that we live in an age when we're as obsessed with our bodies as...

Continue Learning about Cancer

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.