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Metastasis

Metastatic cancer; Cancer metastases

Metastasis is the movement or spreading of cancer cells from one organ or tissue to another. Cancer cells usually spread through the blood or the lymph system.

If a cancer spreads, it is said to have "metastasized."

Information

Whether or not cancer cells spread to other parts of the body depends on many things, including:

  • The type of cancer
  • The stage of the cancer
  • Original location of the cancer

Treatment depends on the type of cancer and where it has spread.

References

Doroshow JH. Approach to the patient with cancer. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 179.

Rankin EB, Erler J, Giaccia AJ. The cellular microenvironment and metastases. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 3.

Sanford DE, Goedegebuure SP, Eberlein TJ. Tumor biology and tumor markers. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 28.

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  • Kidney metastases - CT scan - illustration

    A CT scan of the middle abdomen showing metastasis (cancer that has spread) in the left kidney in a patient with carcinoma of the lung. Note the large dark circular tumor in the kidney on the right side of the picture.

    Kidney metastases - CT scan

    illustration

  • Liver metastases, CT scan - illustration

    A CT scan of the upper abdomen showing multiple metastasis (cancer that has spread) in the liver of a patient with carcinoma of the large bowel. Note the dark areas in the liver (left side and center of picture).

    Liver metastases, CT scan

    illustration

  • Lymph node metastases, CT scan - illustration

    A CT scan of the middle abdomen showing a large tumor mass due to metastasis (spreading cancer) in abdominal lymph nodes.

    Lymph node metastases, CT scan

    illustration

  • Spleen metastasis - CT scan - illustration

    This CT scan of the upper abdomen shows multiple tumors in the liver and spleen that have spread (metastasized) from an original intestinal cancer (carcinoma).

    Spleen metastasis - CT scan

    illustration

  • Kidney metastases - CT scan - illustration

    A CT scan of the middle abdomen showing metastasis (cancer that has spread) in the left kidney in a patient with carcinoma of the lung. Note the large dark circular tumor in the kidney on the right side of the picture.

    Kidney metastases - CT scan

    illustration

  • Liver metastases, CT scan - illustration

    A CT scan of the upper abdomen showing multiple metastasis (cancer that has spread) in the liver of a patient with carcinoma of the large bowel. Note the dark areas in the liver (left side and center of picture).

    Liver metastases, CT scan

    illustration

  • Lymph node metastases, CT scan - illustration

    A CT scan of the middle abdomen showing a large tumor mass due to metastasis (spreading cancer) in abdominal lymph nodes.

    Lymph node metastases, CT scan

    illustration

  • Spleen metastasis - CT scan - illustration

    This CT scan of the upper abdomen shows multiple tumors in the liver and spleen that have spread (metastasized) from an original intestinal cancer (carcinoma).

    Spleen metastasis - CT scan

    illustration

 

Review Date: 10/12/2018

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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