The Small Rot

The small rot (also known as: miner’s carbuncle; brass-hand’s growth; smelterman’s tumor; spacer’s neoplasm; cancer): The small rot, by any of its various names, is a dysfunction of normal cell growth processes in which genetic and/or epigenetic mutations imbue cells with the ability to replicate indefinitely, ignoring cell control signalling and programmed cell death. The term, “small rot” is derived both from an early analogy between fungal bodies found growing in timber and the masses (neoplasms) formed in the body by these dysfunctional cells, and from the tendency of larger neoplasms to develop necrotic regions as they continue to grow.

Identified causes of the small rot vary, but the primary causative factors are industrial, followed by a smaller number of factors traced to identified oncoviruses and hereditary genetic factors. Indeed, it is considered a primarily industrial disease, hence some of its names, due to the dominance of exposure to ionizing radiation as a causative factor; the small rot is strongly correlated with current or previous cases of blue-blotch fever, with long-term exposure to inadequately shielded nucleonic technology, and exposure to various industrial chemicals known to disrupt proper cellular function or cause genomic damage. In the pre-industrial era, cases of the small rot were most commonly found among miners or inhabitants of regions where uranium or thorium ores are found near or at the surface.

The small rot is considered difficult to diagnose accurately: while the dysfunctional cells form neoplasms – and as such unusual masses, when detected, should be subject to medical analysis – these rarely produce local or systemic symptoms in the early stages of development, and such symptoms are highly variable depending upon the location of the neoplasm. Such symptoms typically occur when the growing mass interferes with other bodily functions. Presently, periodic full-body scans are recommended for those at risk of industrial exposure.

The small rot is usually a minor health concern unless left untreated for an extended period. Small masses are typically self-limiting, as the immune system attacks and destroys the neoplasm. Historically, the treatment for larger masses has been surgical removal of the mass, permitting the body to heal itself in its absence.

In the current era, cells are substantially less likely to suffer from dysfunction leading to the small rot due to genetic upgrades, such as the removal of protooncogenes, and the self-limiting aspect of the small rot is enhanced by the common use of artificial immune systems, which include carcinophage nanites targeting neoplasms. Should these fail and further treatment is required, a course of immunoboosters and oncocidals is prescribed, followed by a carcinophage flush targeted at the specific neoplasm; surgical intervention may still be called for if the mass is particularly large.

In rare cases the neoplasms characteristic to the small rot may metastasize, a process in which neoplastic cells break off from the original mass and are carried by the circulatory or lymphatic system to other sites, most commonly lymph nodes, where they come to rest and continue to multiply, forming multiple secondary neoplasms. This wandering rot (q.v.) is a much more serious condition requiring a full cellular scrub in a healing vat, with a high mortality rate if left untreated. Fortunately, it occurs only with chronic exposure to causative factors or lengthy non-treatment of the small rot, typically in otherwise immunodepressed hosts.

– Oriane’s Home Medical Glossary

3 thoughts on “The Small Rot

  1. I take it that somatic telomerase helps reduce the chance of cancer?

    And that the Precursors added a few improvements to the proto-Eldrae’s DNA repair mechanisms.

    • Without prejudice to any actual biologists who might show up, I see that particular mod as pretty much a wash: on the one hand, shortened telomeres are correlated with immune weakening and thus less cancer suppression, but on the other hand, immortal cell lines go wrong much more easily.

      But both enhanced DNA repair/self-destruct and immune system enhancements were involved at the Precursor stage, indeed, both because you need those for long lifespans anyway, and also because orbiting a younger star and therefore being more heavy-metal dense as it is, ambient radiation levels are somewhat higher on their homeworld, and that’s something that both sensible modification and evolution compensate for.

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