Advertisement

What is metastasis, and how does it happen?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Metastasis means the spread of cancer. Cancer cells can break away from a primary tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system (the system that produces, stores, and carries the cells that fight infections). That is how cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.

When cancer cells spread and form a new tumor in a different organ, the new tumor is a metastatic tumor. The cells in the metastatic tumor come from the original tumor. This means, for example, that if breast cancer spreads to the lungs, the metastatic tumor in the lung is made up of cancerous breast cells (not lung cells). In this case, the disease in the lungs is metastatic breast cancer (not lung cancer). Under a microscope, metastatic breast cancer cells generally look the same as the cancer cells in the breast.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

Continue Learning about Cancer

Is Cancer Prevention Effective in the United States?
Is Cancer Prevention Effective in the United States?
Can I Improve My Immune Cells to Fight Cancer?
Can I Improve My Immune Cells to Fight Cancer?
How Does Cancer Research Need to Change?
How Does Cancer Research Need to Change?
Is It Possible for Power Lines to Cause Cancer?
Is It Possible for Power Lines to Cause Cancer?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.