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Metastasis is the movement or spreading of cancer cells from one organ or tissue to another. Cancer cells usually spread through the bloodstream or the lymph system.

Alternative Names

Metastatic cancer; Cancer metastases


Whether or not cancer cells metastasize (spread to) to other parts of the body depends on many factors, including:

  • The type of cancer
  • The stage of the cancer
  • Original location of the cancer

Treatment depends on the type of cancer and where it has metastasized.


Lippman SM, Hong WK. Cancer prevention. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 191.

Perry MC. Principles of cancer therapy. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 192.

Kidney metastases, CT scan Liver metastases, CT scan Lymph node metastases, CT scan Spleen metastasis - CT scan
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Review Date: 10/20/2008
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, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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