A defining varcharacteristic of cancerous tumors is the ability of the tumor to spread both locally as well as to distant sites. The tumors can spread through the blood system as well as the lymphatic system. If the tumor is able to successfully implant in another location, it can grow and exhibit the same malignant varcharacteristics that it had originally. Certain types of tumors tend to spread to certain locations with an increased frequency.
Causes of Metastatic Cancer
As tumors grow, they invade the surrounding blood vessels or lymphatic channels. Occasionally, some of these tumor cells will become dislodged and be swept away by either the blood or the lymph systems. When the cancerous cells enters a local lymph node, it may divide and form a tumor. In addition, The cells may pass to other body parts through these same lymphatic channels. When the tumor cells gain access to the vascular system, the cells statistically tend to be taken to areas of high blood flow. This includes the liver, lung, bone and brain. When tumor cells reach smaller caliber blood vessels, they may pass through the walls of the vessels and invade the local tissues. When tumor cells reach a new destination, they use one of two methods of acquiring nutrients. This can include invading existing blood vessels or by angiogenesis, a process by which the tumor stimulates the body to develop new blood vessels. The maintain growth, the tumor has to be able to induce adequate angiogenesis.
Signs and Symptoms of Metastatic Cancer
Spread of cancer to the lymph nodes can be manifested locally. Here, lumps develop typically in the groin, the armpit or the neck. Tumors which spread to the bones may cause pain and unexpected fractures. The release of calcium can produce problems with kidney function and cardiac function. Tumors spreading to the lung can cause cough and hemoptysis, the coughing up of blood. Shortness of breath can occur. Spread of tumors to the brain can produce weakness, numbness or speech problems. Occasionally, seizures will develop. Many other symptoms may occur with metastatic cancer. Generalized symptoms include weakness, fatigue and weight loss. Tumors may spread to the orbit. This can produce bulging of the eye, double vision and loss of vision.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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