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Learn About Metastatic Cancer

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Cancers are capable of spreading through the body by two mechanisms: invasion and metastasis. Invasion refers to the direct migration and penetration by cancer cells into neighboring tissues. Metastasis refers to the ability of cancer cells to penetrate into lymphatic and blood vessels, circulate through the bloodstream, and then invade normal tissues elsewhere in the body. If you have metastatic cancer, you want the care that will give you the best chance for recovery. At Lehigh Valley Health Network’s cancer centers at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest and Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, you’ll find doctors who are leaders in their fields. You’ll have the advantages of the latest advances in technology. And you’ll benefit from our active involvement in research to find new treatments that extend life.

As the area's only National Cancer Institute-selected cancer center (2010-2014), we can provide you with greater access to the latest oncology clinical trials and research-based treatments. We also partner with the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Fla., and the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, which further increases access to breakthrough clinical research.

Metastases share the name of the original ("primary") tumor. When cells break away from a cancerous tumor, they can travel through the bloodstream or lymph vessels to other parts of the body. Cancer cells can lodge in an organ at a distant location and establish a new tumor. The original tumor that cells break away from is called the primary tumor. The new tumor that the traveling cells create is called the secondary tumor. For example, cancer that starts in the bone is called primary bone cancer. A tumor that has metastasized to bone is not made of bone cells. Bone metastases are made up of abnormal cancer cells that arise from the original tumor site. For example, lung cancer that spreads to the bone is made of lung cancer cells. In this case, bone metastasis would be called metastatic lung cancer.

Detecting cancer early can affect the outcome of the disease for some cancers. When cancer is found, a doctor will determine what type it is and how fast it is growing. He or she also will determine whether cancer cells have invaded nearby healthy tissue or spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. In some cases, finding cancer early may decrease your risk for dying from the cancer. For this reason, improving our methods for early detection is a high priority for cancer researchers.

The symptoms, diagnosis and treatment depend on the type of cancer that has metastasized. Find out if we’re conducting any clinical trials for your type of metastatic cancer.

You may find you need more health care services if your cancer has spread. You may need hospice care or help from our palliative medicine team.

Need Help?

Call 888-402-LVHN (5846) Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Chat Online

Walk-In Care

If you have a minor illness, you can walk into an ExpressCare or schedule a video visit. For allergies, ear infections, cold and flu symptoms, rash and sprains.

Find an ExpressCARE Schedule a video visit

Schedule Online

Book the next available "new patient" appointment with the click of a button.

Schedule Now

How You Can Help Our Mission How You Can Help Our Mission

This is a non-profit organization. Please consider donating to help heal, comfort and care.

Learn more »