Feeling anxious about cancer coming back is one of the greatest concerns for people who have survived cancer. This fear may not only affect physical well-being but also the ability to enjoy life and make plans for the future.
The main reason why cancer is so serious is its ability to spread in the body. Cancer cells can spread locally by moving into nearby normal tissue or structures around it, for example, if prostate cancer grows into the bladder. Cancer can also spread regionally to surrounding tissues or organs or nearby lymph nodes. In some cases cancer can travel and spread to distant parts of the body. Finding cancer in general is already a very taxing experience. Sadly, many times it is only just the beginning. The process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body is called metastasis.
Cancer can spread anywhere in the body but most cancers tend to spread to one place more often than others. The most common places where cancer spreads are the bone, liver, and lung. For example, breast and prostate cancers spread to the bones most often. Colorectal cancer tends to spread to the liver. Testicular cancer usually spreads to the lungs and ovarian cancer often spreads to the peritoneum. Brain metastases can develop from almost any kind of cancer. Whether it be breast, lung, and kidney cancers along with melanoma, these are the ones most likely to metastasize to the brain. The most common signs of metastasis for some common cancers are:
- Bladder ➜ Bone, liver, lung
- Breast ➜ Bone, brain, liver, lung
- Colon ➜ Liver, lung, peritoneum
- Kidney ➜ Adrenal gland, bone, brain, liver, lung
- Lung ➜ Adrenal gland, bone, brain, liver, other lung
- Melanoma ➜ Bone, brain, liver, lung, skin, muscle
- Ovary ➜ Liver, lung, peritoneum
- Pancreas ➜ Liver, lung, peritoneum
- Prostate ➜ Adrenal gland, bone, liver, lung
- Rectal ➜ Liver, lung, peritoneum
- Stomach ➜ Liver, lung, peritoneum
- Thyroid ➜ Bone, liver, lung
Knowing how cancers metastasize helps in staging the cancer. When staging a cancer, the doctor is considering the size of the primary tumor, spread to lymph nodes around the organ, and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic system. Staging is very important for predicting how the cancer will grow and planning for treatment. For most types of cancer, the stages forecast the following:
- Stage 0 – carcinoma in situ (a precancerous change)
- Stage 1 – the tumor is usually small and hasn’t grown outside of the organ it started in
- Stages 2 and 3 – the tumor is larger or has grown outside of the organ it started in to nearby tissue
- Stage 4 – the cancer has spread through the blood or lymphatic system to a distant site in the body (metastatic spread)
Similar to cancer in general, metastatic cancer does not always cause symptoms. Some common signs of metastatic cancer include pain and fractures which tend to indicate that cancer has spread to the bone. Headaches, seizures, or dizziness can be simple indicators when cancer has spread to the brain. Shortness of breath could be a sign when cancer has spread to the lungs, as well as swelling in the stomach, when the cancer has spread to the liver.
Once cancer spreads, it can be very difficult to control. Although some types of metastatic cancer have a better chance to be cured, the unpleasant truth is that most cannot. At Prenuvo, we want to make sure that all cancers are caught early – Before they have a chance to evolve. If you have any questions about our scans, or want to book your Prenuvo scan, please feel free to respond to this email or give us a call on +1-604-227-3000.
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