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Metastatic carcinoma occurs when cancer spreads from its original location to other parts of the body. Sometimes this is referred to as stage 4 cancer.
Cancer typically first spreads to nearby healthy tissue, then through the walls of nearby lymph nodes or blood vessels. Once in the lymphatic system or bloodstream, the cancer moves to other parts of the body. After invading the blood vessel walls at a distant location, a small tumor can start to grow. New blood vessels grow to supply the tumor with blood.
Cancer cells often will die at some point in the metastasis (spreading) process, but some survive to form new tumors. The cells can remain dormant at a distant site for many years.
Metastatic carcinoma cells will have features of the original cancer when viewed through a microscope, which tell pathologists the cancer has spread. Cancer tends to spread to the bones, liver or lungs more often than other sites.
Often, there are no symptoms of metastatic carcinoma. Symptoms will depend on the size and location of new tumors.
Some common signs of metastatic carcinoma:
Metastatic carcinoma has the best chance of being cured when it’s treated by pediatric cancer specialists. Young adults may benefit from treatment at a children’s hospital instead of an adult-service hospital because of the care team’s expertise specifically in childhood diseases.
Treatment for metastatic carcinoma focuses on limiting or stopping the cancer’s spread. It requires experienced, skilled oncologists. Treatment options are based on the type of original cancer, where it has spread, previous treatment and the patient’s overall health. Well-controlled metastatic cancer can add years of life.
Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms to improve quality of life.
The board-certified and fellowship-trained oncologists at Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, collaborate to examine every pediatric cancer patient’s case. The oncology team comes together at regular conferences to share viewpoints from various perspectives that help determine the best course of treatment. It’s like getting second, third and fourth opinions all at once.
By staying at the forefront of research, Norton Children’s Cancer Institute physicians are experienced with newly approved therapies for metastatic carcinoma and can provide access to clinical trials of experimental treatments.