How Cancer Spreads?

Our body is made up of trillions of cells which are grouped together to form tissues or organs. However, more and more abnormal growth and division of a cell in the body can form a lump termed as a tumor.

There are two types of cancers, one is non-cancerous (benign) tumors that stay in one place and doesn’t spread. It usually doesn’t come back after the removal. The other is a cancerous (malignant) tumor that grows in the nearby tissues and may spread to other parts of the body through blood or lymphatic system. It might come back even when cancerous cells are removed.

Pathophysiology of cancer spread

There are two types of cancers based on their spread. Primary cancer remains at the site of its origin, and secondary cancer or metastasis is a site at which the cancer cells spreads to other parts of the body (the new area).

The cells travel to other parts of the body and grow there to form a new tumor.

Cancer cells may spread through,

  • The blood stream: The cancer cell goes into the blood vessels, enter the bloodstream and then travel to the new area of the body.
  • The lymphatic system: The cancer cell from the tumors travels through the lymph vessel and lymph nodes then enter to other areas of the body.

The spread or extent of cancer is categorized by the staging system ranging from 0 to 4 stages. Depending upon the stage, the doctor may give the possible treatment.

The size and how the cancer cell spreads to the nearby tissue are described by the following terms:

  • Localized area: Cancer cell restricted in the original site
  • Regional spread area: Cancer cell spread into the surrounding tissue or the lymph nodes
  • Metastasis: Cancer cells spreads far from the original site to the distant part of the body

Cancer spreading to other parts of the body is called as metastasis. During metastasis, brain, lungs, liver and bone are some of the areas which are soft targets.

Here are some areas from where the cancer is most likely to spread:

  • Bladder: The bladder cancer may spread into surrounding area like the pelvic wall.
  • Brain tumors: This cancer develops within the brain and sometimes in the spinal cord.
  • Breast cancer: This cancer mostly spreads through the skin of the chest any may affect any organ of the body.
  • Liver cancer: This cancer may not spread outside the liver; it tends to develop throughout the liver.
  • Lung cancer: This cancer may spread to any organ of the body and most often spreads to the adrenal glands, liver bones and brain.
  • Melanoma: This cancer may spread anywhere in the body but it first enters into the lymph node from the original site then, may spread to the brain, lungs, and also to the skin areas.

The risk of developing cancer could reduce by making a healthy choice every day in terms of living and food. Being watchful for the early sign of cancer and self examination of the body will be helpful. Regular health checkup and participating in the screening program may help the specialist in early detection.