Metastasis is the movement or spreading of cancer cells from one organ or tissue to another. Cancer cells usually spread through the blood or the lymph system.
If a cancer spreads, it is said to have "metastasized."
Whether or not cancer cells spread to other parts of the body depends on many things, including:
- The type of cancer
- The stage of the cancer
- Original location of the cancer
- Your body's natural defenses, such as the immune system
Treatment depends on the type of cancer and where it has spread.
Metastatic cancer; Cancer metastases
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Krasnick BA, Goedegebuure SP, Fields R. Tumor biology and tumor markers. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 28.
Rankin EB, Giaccia AJ. Cellular microenvironment and metastases. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 3.
Review Date 10/25/2022
Updated by: Frank D. Brodkey, MD, FCCM, Associate Professor, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.