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Metastasis

Show Alternative Names
Metastatic cancer
Cancer metastases

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."

Information

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.

Text only

Review Date: 10/10/2020

Reviewed By

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

References

Doroshow JH. Approach to the patient with cancer. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 169.

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. Philadelphia, PA: 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.

Disclaimer

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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Kidney metastases - CT scan - Illustration Thumbnail

Kidney metastases - CT scan

A CT scan of the middle abdomen showing metastasis (cancer that has spread) in the left kidney in a patient with carcinoma of the lung. Note the large dark circular tumor in the kidney on the right side of the picture.

Illustration

Liver metastases, CT scan - Illustration Thumbnail

Liver metastases, CT scan

A CT scan of the upper abdomen showing multiple metastasis (cancer that has spread) in the liver of a patient with carcinoma of the large bowel. Note the dark areas in the liver (left side and center of picture).

Illustration

Lymph node metastases, CT scan - Illustration Thumbnail

Lymph node metastases, CT scan

A CT scan of the middle abdomen showing a large tumor mass due to metastasis (spreading cancer) in abdominal lymph nodes.

Illustration

Spleen metastasis - CT scan - Illustration Thumbnail

Spleen metastasis - CT scan

This CT scan of the upper abdomen shows multiple tumors in the liver and spleen that have spread (metastasized) from an original intestinal cancer (carcinoma).

Illustration

Kidney metastases - CT scan - Illustration Thumbnail

Kidney metastases - CT scan

A CT scan of the middle abdomen showing metastasis (cancer that has spread) in the left kidney in a patient with carcinoma of the lung. Note the large dark circular tumor in the kidney on the right side of the picture.

Illustration

Liver metastases, CT scan - Illustration Thumbnail

Liver metastases, CT scan

A CT scan of the upper abdomen showing multiple metastasis (cancer that has spread) in the liver of a patient with carcinoma of the large bowel. Note the dark areas in the liver (left side and center of picture).

Illustration

Lymph node metastases, CT scan - Illustration Thumbnail

Lymph node metastases, CT scan

A CT scan of the middle abdomen showing a large tumor mass due to metastasis (spreading cancer) in abdominal lymph nodes.

Illustration

Spleen metastasis - CT scan - Illustration Thumbnail

Spleen metastasis - CT scan

This CT scan of the upper abdomen shows multiple tumors in the liver and spleen that have spread (metastasized) from an original intestinal cancer (carcinoma).

Illustration

 
 
 
 

 

 
 

 
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