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What is Metastatic Cancer?

Metastatic cancer is a cancer that has spread from the part of the body where it started to other parts of the body.  When this happens, physicians say the cancer has metastasized.  Your physician may also call it recurrent cancer, advanced cancer, or stage IV (4) cancer. Metastatic cancer has the same name and the same type of cancer cells as the original, or primary, cancer.  For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung and forms a metastatic tumor is metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer.

How Does Cancer Spread?

According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer cells spread through the body in a series of steps.  These steps include:

Most of the time, spreading cancer cells die at some point in this process. However, as long as conditions are favorable for the cancer cells at every step, some of them can form new tumors in other parts of the body.  Metastatic cancer cells can also remain inactive at a distant site for many years before they begin to grow again, if at all. 

Where Does Cancer Spread?

The type of cancer and where the cancer starts is linked to how likely and where it will spread.  Because of how the body’s bloodstream and lymph systems work, some of the most common sites where cancer can spread include the lungs, liver, bone, and brain. 

However, cancer can spread to almost every part of the body, though some types of cancer tend to spread to certain parts of the body.  For example:


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"From my first visit, I was confident the team at Alliance Cancer Care was going to use leading protocols to treat my cancer. I felt safe, cared for, and listened to when I had questions. Being close to home was key for me and my family so they could be with me throughout each appointment and treatment, Alliance made this possible."
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