A Disease of Henrietta Lacks

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Invading Doctors and Desperate Scientist

Are doctors invading our body? When you go to the doctor you don’t know what they’re doing all they tell you is you’ll get examined but they don’t tell you exactly how. This happened to a young lady named Henrietta Lacks. They took a sample from her body and from there it was chaos. There were miracles but there was also devastation. It is essential to know what is going on in your body and also what doctors are doing to it.

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“A Disease of Henrietta Lacks”

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In the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a journalist and family go through a journey where they find out the importance of consent and their knowledge of medical complications.

Part I: Life. Henrietta had a feeling there was something down in her cervix area. She would bleed on days that she wasn’t on her menstrual cycle, she worried that this was something serious. She married her cousin day and had many kids. She later went to the doctor and was misdiagnosed with a tumor which ended up to be cancer. She did not tell any of her family about this she went back and forth to the hospital for treatment. The doctors took samples of Henrietta’s cancer cells without her consent and tested it against many diseases. Henrietta cells were the first ever human cells to ever survive under lab conditions perfectly healthy and reproduce. Henrietta was very fun, generous, and hard-working. She cared so much about her physical appearance especially her nails. Her cousin Sadie said that Henrietta would always keep her nails and toenails covered with fresh red nail polish. Henrietta was later hospitalized and the doctors did not allow her kids to visit her because it made her worry too much. Rebecca Skloot had contacted Deborah, Henrietta’s youngest daughter, about writing a book on her mother. Deborah was told to not tell Skloot any information so she had to go straight to the husband day but he did not want to give any information either. Later on, Rebecca got in contact with a woman named Courtney hello Courtney could not give much information she did show her an extraordinary documentary.

Part II: Death. While collecting samples of Henrietta’s organs Mary, Gey’s assistant, sees the chipped nail polish on Henrietta’s toes and at that time she realizes that these cells come from an actual human being. Mary feels regret and remorse for this being because she can imagine her having fun and spending her time painting her toenails. A vaccine for polio was made with the help of Hela cells by Dr. Jonas Salk. Hela cells were then the first cells to be shipped by mail. Hela cells influence many things such as polio vaccine, cell cloning, a discovery that cells have 46 chromosomes, diagnostic of genetic disease, isolating stem cells, in vitro fertilization.  Henrietta family still does not know that her cells are still alive but there are still traces showing and hiding that Henrietta was a donor of Hela cells which makes Gey appear more as a villain. Deborah experiences awful abuse from Ethel and her husband Galen. Her children had moved to Lawrence and Bobette’s but Galen still abuses Deborah. Bobette has convinced Deborah to stay in school and to fight off her cousins, Galen and Ethel. Chief of Urology at Sloan-Kettering Institute for cancer research injects people with Hela cells without their consent. Skloot writes that informed consent was not even a term until 1957 when a patient was paralyzed during what he thought was a routine surgery and successfully sued the surgeon. Stanley Gartler claims that Hela cells were contaminated, he finds a rare genetic marker called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase-A (G6PD-A)which was exclusively in Black Americans. Skloot has gone to Lawrence’s house and is asked what the Hela cells have done that is so important. skloot finally meets Sonny, Lawrence, day, and Babette in one visit. she talks about the history of John Hopkins and discusses two cases of racism. One is about a lead poisoning in the late 90s. George gay learned that he had pancreatic cancer he wanted to become a founder of an immortal cell line and help researchers but he was not able to with cancer he obtained. he still wanted to help science so he under many chemo treatments which nearly killed him. after his death, Howard Jones took another look at Henrietta’s biopsy and finally realize that her tumor was misdiagnosed.

Part III: Immortality.  Tibet finds out from her friend the Henrietta cells are still alive. She runs home and tells Lawrence who calls John Hopkins to ask about his mother cells. After 22 years her family finally learns that the cells are not only alive but are also bought and sold for research. The Hopkins geneticist volunteered his barely English speaking fellow researcher, Susan Hsu, to get blood from the Lacks family. Hsu and day to have a lot of miscommunication about consent because of clashing versions of English. Deborah generally thought that they were taking her blood for a cancer test and even got her blood taken out a second time. Mckusick frightened Deborah with a summary of experiments that were done with Hela cells because he assumed that Deborah already knew about everything that was going on with the Hela cells. he had given her a text booked thinking that it would help answer Debra’s questions but the only thing she understood was that there was a famous picture of her mother in the textbook. McKusick has said that he doesn’t remember meeting Deborah or where he got in the picture of Henrietta from. The Lack of boys was angry that people were making money off of Hela cells. They initially thought that Gey and Hopkins stole Henrietta cells so they can make lots of money but it wasn’t right. the boys started a movement to get hairdo from Hopkins but Deborah just wanted to understand. Deborah has suffered so much on her mother she lost and has spell betrayal about Hopkins actions. zakariyya is out of jail and sleeping on a bench across from his father’s home. he blames day for Henrietta’s death, for leaving the kids with Ethel who is abusive. A book called A Conspiracy of Cells: One Woman’s Immortal Legacy and the Medical Scandal It Caused, is published in 1985 by Michael Gould’s. Deborah is found reading this book and falls apart at the description of her mother’s painful death.


The cell cycle begins with the interphase, which is the longest part of the cell cycle. It comprises three parts G1 phase, S phase, and G2 phase. The cells begin in the G1 phase where the growth, creation of new proteins, and organelles happen. They then move onto the S phase where DNA is replicated. Last, cells move to the end of Interphase, where they head to the G2 phase where organelles and molecules are made for cell division. The cells then move to M phase(Mitosis) where chromosomes are divided evenly and relax. After the M phase, the nuclei (relaxed chromosome) and cytoplasm divide to create two daughter cells in the Cytokinesis Phase. The cell cycle is crucial because it helps for the growing and development of organisms. Although the cell cycle is essential for us, it can put our health at risk if the process happens too quickly.

 Cancer is caused when the cells reproduce uncontrollably and do not respond to the signals. Abnormal cells can start growing in the milk ducts and break out into the nearest breast tissue, which is what happens during breast cancer. Once these cancer cells begin, they can move from your breast into other parts of your body like the bloodstream and immune system. Some symptoms of breast cancer can be a lump in the breast, bloody discharge from the nipple, and changes of shape to the nipple or breast. Once breast cancer spreads, it can irritate the skin, cause swelling and pain, weaken the body, and cause unintentional weight loss.

Things we are exposed to in our everyday life or our surrounding environment can affect our risk of breast cancer. Factors such as Ionising radiation, Medical X-rays, Radiotherapy treatments, Shift work (working at night), & stress can put yourself at risk to get Breast Cancer. You can also be the one to be putting yourself at a risk. For example, eating a poor diet, inactivity, obesity, heavy alcohol use, smoking, & exposure to chemicals/toxins do not help you but causes you to put yourself in a higher risk to Breast Cancer. If you are a person who is healthy, watches themselves, & protects themselves from radiation, you have a less chance of getting diagnosed, but if it runs in the family, there is still a chance you are at risk. The mutated genes copy itself and are passed on genetically to future generations. There are no ways to prevent breast cancer, but there are ways to lower your risk such as watching your health and being physically active. Other factors are limit/avoid alcohol, breastfeed, don’t smoke, and avoid exposure to radiation or pollution.

        There are many ways breast cancer is treated. The treatment depends on what stage of breast cancer the patient is in. Surgery, therapy, Medication, and even specialist are things people have to go through to cure their cancer. If you are in the early stages of breast cancer, it can usually be treated with medications, radiation, or therapy. But the later stages are treated with chemo, surgery, or even a specialist. The way doctors diagnose the cancer is by performing many exams. The exams comprise breast exams, a mammogram, a breast ultrasound, biopsy, or even an MRI scan. Those are the only way doctors can diagnose you and know what treatments are needed.

About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12.4%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. – Breastcancer.org. In 2018 an estimation of 266,120 cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,550 cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in men in the U.S. It is more common for women to be diagnosed with breast cancer. But men in their 60s or 70s are usually at a risk.

As long as your body is healthy and there is no history of breast cancer in your family you are safe from being diagnosed. Although you can treat part of it, you still must be careful of what you do.

Works Cited

  1. Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Books, 2011.
  2. https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics
  3. https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/guide/breast-cancer-men#1-2
  4. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/risk-and-prevention/can-i-lower-my-risk.html
  5. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment.html
  6. https://breastcancernow.org/about-breast-cancer/want-to-know-about-breast-cancer/what-can-cause-breast-cancer/other-risk-factors/environmental-factors-affect-risk-of-breast-cancer
  7. https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/guide/stages-breast-cancer#1
  8. https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-stage-4
  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352475
  10. https://cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/what-is-breast-cancer.html
  11. https://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/_Komen/Content/About_Breast_Cancer/Tools_and_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Breast_Self_Awareness_Cards/What%20is%20Breast%20Cancer.pdf
  12. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352470?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=abstract&utm_content=Breast-cancer&utm_campaign=Knowledge-panel
  13. https://www.healthline.com/health/breast-cancer/radiation-effects-on-body#2
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A Disease Of Henrietta Lacks. (2019, Aug 16). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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