Understanding the Metastasis Process
Cancer can either be malignant or benign, depending on whether it can spread. There is a primary spot where cancer starts growing and at this stage, the tumor is typically an isolated mass, but it has the potential to move to secondary areas and form new tumors. This mushrooming of cancerous cells is called metastasis and is what turns a treatable tumor into a malignant one. Understanding how cancer spreads is essential in determining treatment options as well as the expected path of the cells.
Does every Cancer Metastasize?
One feature of the metastasis process is that it is very inefficient in that not every solid tumor has the chance of metastasizing. The only way the process is possible is when there is a genetic mutation of cells that enables them to travel through the body without getting killed. In most cases, the body defense system puts up a good fight to stop them. Another point to note is that tumor cells that have metastasized can go a long time without ever growing.
Spread via Blood Vessels
One way that cancerous cells spread is through the bloodstream. What happens is that the cells shift in nature and start moving, making it possible for them to break away from the original tumor. Usually, the surrounding environment is what instigates tumor cells to restructure, consequently transforming their DNA. These cells eventually come into contact with blood vessels, and that is how they make their way into the bloodstream. As blood circulates, so do the cancerous cells until they get stuck. With the environment supplying growth stimulants and nutrients, the cells continue to grow and replicate and form a new tumor. The bloodstream, however, does not provide a very favorable environment, which is why only a few cells make it out.
Lymph Node Spread
The other way that cancer metastasizes is through the lymphatic system. This system contains a vessel and gland network that is responsible for battling infections in the body. Cancer cells can leech on to lymph vessels and journey to the lymph glands where some get stuck and develop into tumors. The lymphatic drainage system is the first highway that cancer cells consider when looking for an escape. It is the reason lymph node biopsy is used to evaluate how far cancer has spread.
Skin Cancer Treatment
For these reasons, it is apparent cancerous tumors can spread. It makes the treatment of such cancer critical and urgent. To learn more about skin cancer and the treatments offered, contact our office for your consultation.