We discussed lung cancer in our previous article; it’s one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States and is amongst the most common cancers. Metastasis simply means that a particular cancer spreads to different parts of the body aside from where it started. Lung cancer metastasis means that the cancer has started to spread to other parts of the body away from the lungs.
Other cancers also metastasize; breast cancer, colon cancer, prostrate cancer, bladder cancer, neuroblastoma, sarcoma, and others spread to the lung just as lung cancer spreads to those parts.
How does lung cancer metastasis spread?
When lung cancer is metastatic, it means that it has started to spread. What this means, in essence, is that the cancerous cells will separate themselves from the tumor and travel along the blood or lymph system to other areas in the body.
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We may ask ourselves, are all lung cancers metastatic? Well, metastatic lung cancers usually develop at an advanced phase, usually stage 3 or stage 4. But it also depends on how the cancer cells have spread. A large growth of cancerous cells in the lungs slowly invades healthy tissues around it. When it affects healthy tissues in the lung, we say it’s a local metastasis.
It has metastasized when it gets to other parts of the body. Some common locations are the liver, bones, brain, adrenal glands, and lymph nodes. Of these areas, the most affected parts are the liver, where studies have shown that 34.3% of people with lung cancer developed the adrenal glands (32.6%), followed by bones (14.9%) and other organs: central nervous system (CNS) (12%), kidney (10.9%), myocardium (9.1%), pancreas (5.1%), spleen (4%), stomach (2.3%), small or large intestines (3.4%), and thyroid gland (1.7%).
What are the symptoms of lung cancer metastasis?
Symptoms that lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body can be obvious. You’ll have your doctor run tests to confirm the diagnosis.
- Pain in the bones (like pain in the back or hips).
- From cancer spread to the brain, symptoms of nervous system collapse (such as headaches, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, or seizures).
- Colouring of the skin and eyes (jaundice) from cancer spread to the liver.
- Swelling of lymph nodes (a collection of immune system cells) such as those in the neck or above the collarbone.
- Lung cancer metastasis causes the brain to develop brain metastases, which can cause headaches, mood swings, paralysis and other issues as well.
How can lung cancer metastasis be treated?