What is metastasis, symptoms and how it happens


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Cancer is one of the most serous diseases as it spreads cancer cells throughout the body, hence affecting organs and tissues as well as other distant located organs. Cancer cells that affect other organs far away from their origin are known as metastases.

Although metastases occur in another organ, they are continuously formed by cancer cells from the original tumour, and this therefore does not mean that cancer has developed in a new organ. For example, when breast cancer causes metastases in the lung, the cells will remain that of the breast and should be treated the same way as breast cancer.

Symptoms of metastasis

In most cases, metastases do not result in new symptoms. However, when they occur, the symptoms may vary depending on the affected site and they include:

  • Pain in bones or frequent fractures, in case it affects the bones
  • Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath in the case of metastases in the lungs
  • Severe and constant headache, frequent seizures or dizziness in the case of brain metastases
  • Yellowish skin and eyes or swelling of the belly, in case it affects the liver

However, some of these symptoms may arise as a result of the cancer treatment and for this reason it is advisable to inform the oncologist of any new symptoms, so that he may be able to diagnose any development of metastases.

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Metastases are as sign of malignant neoplasms. This means that the organism was not able to fight the abnormal cell, thus the abnormal malignant cell will undergo uncontrolled proliferation.

How does it occur?

Metastases occurs due to low efficiency of the body to eliminate the abnormal cells. Therefore, the malignant cells begin to proliferate autonomously and in an uncontrolled manner. They have the ability to pass through the lymph nodes and blood vessels as they will be transported by the circulatory and lymphatic system to the rest of the organs, that may either be close if far away from the primary site of the tumour.

In the new organ, cancer cells will accumulate until they form a tumour similar to the original one. When their numbers become large, the cells can lead to the body forming new blood vessels so as to bring more blood to the tumour. This will favour proliferation of more malignant cells and consequently their growth.

Main sites of metastasis

Although metastases can affect any site of the body, there areas that are more common to be affected such as the lungs an bones. However, these sites may vary depending on the type of original cancer.

Type of cancerMost common sites of metastases
ThyroidBones, liver and lung
MelanomaBones, brain, liver, lung, skin and muscles
BreastBones, brain, liver and lungs
LungAdrenal glands, bones, brain, liver
StomachLiver, lung, ionyum
PancreasLiver, lung, ionyum
KidneysAdrenal glands, bones, brain, liver
BladderBones, liver and lung
GutLiver, lung, ionyum
OvariesLiver, lung, ionyum
UterusBones, liver, lung, ionium and vagina
ProstateAdrenal glands, bones, liver and lung

Can metastases be cured?

When cancer cells spread to other organs, it becomes more difficult to arrive at healing. However, treatment of metastases should be similar to that of the original cancer treatment, which includes chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

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The cure will be difficult to achieve because this means the disease is already at an advanced stage as the cancer cells can be observed in various other parts of the body.

In the most severe cases, when the cancer is fully developed, it may not be possible to completely eliminate the metastases. Therefore, treatment will be done mainly to relieve the symptoms and delay further development of the cancer.


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Cornelius A.

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