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How does lung cancer spread?

Your lungs have an extensive network of blood vessels and lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures found throughout the body. They produce and store infection-fighting cells.

Cancer cells may grow into these structures and circulate throughout the body. The cancer cells may then deposit into other organs. A new group of cancer cells, which forms in another organ, is known as a metastasis.

In lung cancer, the first sites of tumor spread, or metastasis, are usually:
  • the lymph nodes at the root of the lungs (hilar nodes)
  • the lymph nodes in middle of the chest between the lungs (mediastinum)
Sometimes, cancer cells that begin in other organs spread to the lungs. These cases are very different medical problems, however. Depending on where the cancer started, such cases might be termed "primary breast cancer, metastatic to the lungs," or "primary kidney cancer, metastatic to the lungs."

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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.