Metastatic Cancer: What Is It and How Does It Come About?
Metastatic cancer, otherwise known as secondary cancer, is cancer that develops as a result of the spread of cancer (primary cancer) to other locations in the human body. Metastatic cancer is also known by other names such as metastatic disease or tumor, metastasis (which is one cancerous tumor), metastases (two or more malignant tumors) as well as advanced cancer. It is also referred to and treated as a stage (IV) cancer.
When metastatic cancer cells are observed under a microscope, they have similar features when compared to that of primary cancer cells and bear no resemblance to the actual location where they were found. For example, when liver cancer spreads to the colon, the cancer cells found in the colon are liver cancer cells (referred to as metastatic liver cancer) and not colon cancer cells. This is the distinguishing trait that enables oncologists to know that it is cancer that spread from another part of the body.
Symptoms of Metastatic Cancer
Metastatic cancer is not always known to instigate symptoms, but when symptoms do occur, its rate of recurrence, as well as nature, will be determined by the location and size of the metastatic tumors. Some of the most frequent premonitions of metastatic cancer include:
A headache, dizziness or seizures when cancer has spread to the brain
Fractures or pains when cancer has spread to the bones
Swollen belly of jaundice when cancer has spread to the liver
Shortness in breathing, when cancer has spread to the lungs.
The spreading of cancer makes it very hard to control. A majority of metastatic cancer cannot be cured, except a few using current treatment procedures. The aim of such treatments is to slow down or stop (if possible) the growth of cancer to alleviate the symptoms caused by it. The treatment for metastatic cancer may, to some extent, prolong the life of the patient.
The type of therapy that a cancer patient undergoes depends mainly on the nature of primary cancer, the treatments that the patient has undergone in times past, where cancer has spread and the state of the general health of the patient. But generally, treatments used for metastatic cancer may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, ablation therapy and surgery.
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