Know About Metastatic Cancer
discussions and mentions are doing rounds in social media now-a-days after
reported diagnosis of the same in one of the former leading bollwood actress,
Sonali Bendre. Dr. R K Choudhary, Consultant – Medical Oncology and Dr.
Puneet Gupta, Director – Oncology
and Senior Consultant –
Medical Oncology, in our
special series- Metro Doctor Speak, answers some important questions on
What is Metastatic
has the tendency to get spread from its initial position to other parts of the
body. The original cancer is known as primary tumor, whereas the cancer in
other parts of the body is known as metastases. The cancer cells presents in
metastatic cancer are same as of primary cancer. For example: when the colon
cancer spread to other part of the body such as liver, the cancer cells present
in the liver are colon cancer cells. It is known as metastatic colon cancer and
not as liver cancer.
is also known as:
Metastatic tumor, tumors or disease
Metastatic (one cancerous tumor)
Metastases (more than one cancerous tumor)
Mostly all the
cancers have the tendency to spread to other parts of the body. Generally the
term metastatic cancer is only used to define the solid tumors which have
spread to other parts of the body. There are certain cancers such as leukemia,
lymphoma and multiple myeloma are considered as widespread when they are diagnosed
and hence they are not referred as metastatic cancer.
The spread of the
cancer depends on the following factors:
The type of cancer
The grade of the primary cancer
The location and size of the primary cancer
The time duration of the primary cancer in the
If cancer treatments were used and how well they
In most of the
scenarios metastatic cancer might develops after many years the primary cancer
is first diagnosed. There are certain cases where the cancer has already
metastasized when it’s diagnosed.
How cancer spread?
When cancer cells
grow and start to divide, they have the tendency to move from their initial
position to the other areas of the body. There are majorly 3 ways in which the
cancer is spread to other parts of the body:
Direct Extension, or invasion- direct
extension or invasion means that the primary tumor grows into tissues or
structures around it. e.g., In case of prostate cancer, this cancer grows into
Lymphatic system spread:
under this system the cancer cells will break away from the primary tumor and
thus will travel to another part of the body through the lymphatic system. The
lymphatic system consists of group of tissues and organs that make and store
cells which are helpful in fighting infection and diseases. Eg. Breast cancer
going to axillary lymph nodes.
Bloodstream, or hematogenous:
under hematogenous spread the cancer cells break away from the primary tumor
and thus enters the bloodstream travelling to a new place in the body.
In general the immune
system attacks and destroys the cancer cells which travels through the
bloodstream but in various scenarios when the cancer cells manages to survive
and settle down in another area of the body, where they develops a new tumor.
To survive while growing at the new location in the body, the tumor must form
its own blood supply known as angiogenesis.
Cancer holds the
tendency of spreading to other parts of the body, such as breast cancer and
prostate cancer spread to the bones most often; whereas colorectal cancer
majorly spreads to the liver. Testicular cancer usually spread to the lungs
while the ovarian cancer generally spreads to the peritoneum.
Mentioned below are
certain terms which doctors may use to describe if the cancer has spread or not
and if yes then how far it has spread:
Localized: the term localized
means that the cancer has not spread to any other part of the body, it is still
in the area from where it has started.
Regional: under this
condition the cancer cells have spread to the nearby lymph nodes and into the
surrounding tissues or organs.
Distant: this term means
that cancer is in a part of the body farther from where it was started.
cancer is treated?
cancer is more difficult to treat than the cancer which hasn’t spread. In most
of the cases, the main aim of treatment for metastatic cancer is to continue
the survival while maintaining the quality of the life. Treatment slows down
the growth of metastases, but the metastases usually don’t go away completely.
provided for metastatic cancer are based on various factors such as the
location of the cancer, symptoms, amount of metastases, the treatment which is
used for the original cancer, the treatment goal, age, the overall health,
other medical conditions and personal preferences.