How Does Metastasis Occur?

What is the Link Between Metastasis and Cancer?

July, 2022 - Last update: July, 2024

Do you know what is Metastasis? First, let’s understand that a tumor forms when cells grow uncontrollably or resist signals to die, creating an abnormal mass in the body. There are two types of tumors: benign, which cannot metastasize, and malignant, which can spread to other parts of the body.

What does Metastasis mean?

Metastasis refers to the spreading of malignant tumors beyond their original site. The cancer spreads through several steps:

  • Tumor cells invade neighboring tissues.
  • Cancer cells break off and travel through blood vessels or lymphatic vessels.
  • Cells navigate through the circulatory or lymphatic systems without being destroyed.
  • Cells exit these systems into new organs.
  • Cancerous cells rapidly reproduce in the new organ(s)

In short, this process is deemed inefficient as most metastasizing cells perish before establishing new tumors. Favorable conditions must align for successful tumor growth in distant organs.

How Does Metastasis Occur?
How Does Metastasis Occur?

What types of cancers are more likely to metastasize?

All cancer types have the potential to be metastatic. The more common cancer types include: 

  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bone cancer 
  • Liver cancer  
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Stomach cancer 


Imaging techniques such as ultrasound, X-ray, CT scan, bone scan, MRI scan, or PET scan are used to detect metastasis. Then, while metastasis cannot always be prevented, early detection allows for timely intervention and improved prognosis. Whole Body MRI scans are crucial for early cancer detection by imaging from head to below the knees in a single scan.

Diagnosis and Prevention:

In order to determine if a tumour has metastasized, imaging is done to see inside the body. This can be done through an ultrasound, X-ray, CT scan, bone scan, MRI scan, or PET scan. Metastasis cannot necessarily be prevented, but if caught at an early stage, early treatments can be done to control the spread. Whole Body MRI scans can help detect cancer early by imaging the full body from head to just below the knees in one scan. 

Early detection is critical for treatment planning and prognosis, as metastasis often occurs in untreated cancers.

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