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Where in the body can lung cancer spread?

Lung cancer can spread to other parts of the body, including lymph nodes. Doctors use mostly surgical methods to determine if lung cancer is spreading. Doctors remove parts of the cancer and lymph nodes to determine the spread and stage of the disease.

Dr. Jay M. Lee, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Lung cancer can spread to lymph nodes or other organs. Once a lung cancer diagnosis is established, the next step is to determine stage. Doctors carefully measure the tumor size and location, and define its spread. Determining the stage of a lung cancer can be complicated because many different tests and procedures are used, which include imaging studies of the chest and rest of the body along with biopsy procedures or surgeries.

Lung cancer can spread to other parts of the body. The liver, brain and bone are just three examples of areas where lung cancer can spread. Like other cancers that spread to other parts of the body, lung cancer that has spread is referred to as metastasized cancer. Cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is more difficult to treat.

Major body parts that lung cancer can spread to are bones, brain, liver, adrenal glands and the other lung.

To determine if lung cancer is spreading, doctors usually follow lung cancer patients using repeat (also known as serial) imaging studies, like computed tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

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