Can Cancer Spread Throughout the Body?


While cancer is in no way contagious (meaning you can’t “catch” it from another person), cancer can spread quickly throughout a person’s own body.

Important terms to know:

  • Metastatic cancer: Cancer that has spread from where it originally started to other organs or parts of the body.
  • Locally advanced cancer: Cancer that has spread beyond the organ it started in but has not yet traveled to distant parts of the body.
  • Advanced cancer: Cancer that can’t be cured.

How Does Cancer “Travel?”

When a cancer cell detaches from a tumor, it’s able to move throughout your body using either your bloodstream or lymph system. Most often, cancer cells use the bloodstream to move from one location to another. Though cells often die while en route, some make it to their new destination and begin to grow a new tumor.

For cancer to move from one area of the body to another, it needs to complete several steps:

  • Cancer cells have to break away from their original tumor and make their way into the bloodstream or lymph system.
  • Cancer cells then need to attach themselves to the wall of a blood or lymph vessel and move into a new organ.
  • Cancer cells need to survive and grow in their new location, while avoiding attacks from the immune system.

Identifying and Labeling Metastatic Cancer

If a woman’s breast cancer spread to her bones, her diagnosis would still be breast cancer, not breast and bone cancer. If cancer has spread to several different areas of a person’s body before it’s discovered, it will likely be called cancer of unknown primary. This means there’s no way for doctors to identify where it originated.

Beverly Oncology & Imaging offers state-of-the-art medical technology with greater convenience than hospitals can offer. We are leaders in our field, using cutting-edge technology like Rotating Gamma Technology™,External Beam therapy, and brachytherapy. Contact us today to discuss treatment options or to make an appointment.

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