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What is metastatic cancer?

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Quick Answer

Metastatic cancer is a type of cancer that has spread from the original point of cancer to another place in the body, according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Metastasis occurs when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body and form cancerous tumors.

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What is metastatic cancer?
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Full Answer

Nearly all cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma, can form metastasis and spread to bones, organs and tissues of the body, according to the National Cancer Institute. Metastatic cancer retains the same name and same cancer cells as the patient's original or primary cancer regardless of where in the body the cancerous cells travel to and settle. For example, if a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer and the cancerous cells spread to the lungs, the tumor is labeled as a metastatic tumor instead of lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The most common target areas of the body for cancer metastasis include the bones, lungs and liver, although it is possible for cancer to spread to other areas of the body, including the lymph nodes, brain and adrenal gland, according to the National Cancer Institute. Metastatic cancer spreads by invading nearby tissues or entering the blood stream to travel to other parts of the individual's body.

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