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Metastatic cancers


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Metastasis means spreading to other areas from the point of origin.

What are metastatic cancers?

Therefore, a metastatic cancer is the one that has moved from the place where it started to other parts or organs of the body. The point of origin is known as the primary site.


How do metastatic cancers spread?

The cancerous cells invade other organs of the body either through the lymphatic system or bloodstream and they end up forming a new tumour in the new place.

Cancerous cells turn metastatic after undergoing the following steps:

Step1- Not only do the cells need to travel via the bloodstream or lymph system, they must be capable of attaching to the blood or lymph vessels to further invade the new organ

Step 2- The blood and lymph nourishes the metastatic cells which should be able to survive in the new location without getting destroyed by the body’s immune response.

Step 3- New tumours with altered DNA start forming in the invaded organs


How do metastatic cancers look like?

Metastatic cancerous cells look similar to those present at the primary site, when viewed under a microscope. However, any cancerous cell will contain specific chromosomal markers and altered protein expression.


What are the main sites of metastatic cancers?

Cancer can occur in any part of the body and the primary sites of metastasis are brain, lung, bones and liver. Depending on the type of primary cancer they can also invade the lymph glands, adrenal glands and the spinal cord.

Primary cancer in the ovary, uterus and bladder are most likely to metastasise to the pelvic organs and muscles.


Are there any symptoms of metastatic cancers?

Metastasis to liver can lead to abnormal urinary symptoms, loss of appetite, change in skin coloration, weight loss etc.

Metastasis to bones can increase their weakness and make them prone to trauma and injury. Numbness can be experienced in many parts of the body

When cancers metastasize to lungs it can cause typically leads to throwing up blood while coughing, respiratory complications, chest pain, etc.

A cancerous tumour in brain can cause severe headaches, dizziness and loss of bladder control. An individual might also experience vision problems, difficulty in speaking, confusion, etc.


How are metastatic cancers diagnosed?

First of all your doctor or oncologist will suggest imaging test to view the condition of the internal organs being suspected of having a tumour. The diagnostic tests include ultrasonography, CT scan, PET scan, bone scan or MRI.

Following that a biopsy will be done to check the morphology of the cancerous cells and to determine the stage and extent of spread of the cancer.

Furthermore you will need to undergo several blood tests to evaluate the progression of the disease.


Treatment for metastatic cancers

It’s true that there is no cure for a cancer has spread from the primary site to other organs of the body. Medical strategies can only decline the rate of progression which in turn increases the survival term of patients.

Your doctor will evaluate the cancer and will recommend a treatment that will be aimed towards the type of cancer you have. 

Typical treatments for metastatic cancers involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormonal therapy.

Surgery might be suggested to remove secondary tumours, like that in the bones, prostrate and lungs. Some other techniques that might be opted for the same purpose are thermal ablation and radioembolization.

Apart from those, your doctor might also consider performing biological therapy which emphasizes on cutting of the blood supply for the metastatic tumour with drugs like anti-angiogenesis agents and epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors.

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: March 09, 2014

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