Cancer that starts in one part of the body can sometimes spread and invade other areas of the body. A tumor formed by metastatic cancer cells is called a metastatic tumor or a metastasis.
Metastatic cancer has the same name and the same type of cancer cells as the original, or primary, cancer. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung and forms a metastatic tunor is metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. The most common sites of cancer metastasis are, in alphabetical order, the bone, liver, and lung. Although most cancers have the ability to spread to many different parts of the body, they usually spread to one site more often than others.
Brain metastases are clusters of malignant or cancerous cells that have spread from another part of the body to the brain. About 170,000 people will be diagnosed with brain metastases this year making it more common than many primary tumors, such as primary brain tumors (62,000 cases), lymphoma (79,030) or colon cancer (102,480). It is common to say a person has “brain cancer” when the cancer has spread to the brain from another part of the body. However, with brain metastases, instead of having both brain cancer and breast cancer, a person has breast cancer that has spread to the brain. The most common cancers that spread to the brain are lung cancer, breast cancer and melanoma. However, just about any cancer can spread to the brain.
If a tumor spreads to the bone, these new cancer deposits are called a bone metastases. When bone metastases occur, they are sometimes called “bone cancer”. However, in nearly all cases, bone metastases are a result of the spread of the original cancer to the bone. So instead of having both bone cancer and breast cancer, for example, a person has breast cancer that has spread to the bone. Cancers that may spread to the bone include, but are not limited to, breast, kidney, lung, prostate and thyroid. Multiple myeloma, a disease characterized by uncontrolled growth of white blood cells, called plasma cells, can also involve the bones.
Types of Metastatic Cancer We Treat
Cancer treatments have improved greatly in recent years, allowing many patients to live longer with cancer than ever before. Unfortunately, metastases may still occur in many patients sometimes months or even years after an original cancer diagnosis. There are many treatment options available for patients with bone and/or brain metastases to try to provide relief and to suppress local disease. We use stereotactic treatments including SBRT and SRS to target metastases with stereotactic precision, as well as external beam radiation therapy.
The physicians at the University of Washington Department of Radiation Oncology work very closely with your medical oncologist, surgeon and your entire care team to determine which combination of treatment is best for you. Because of our team’s deep collaboration with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, you can be assured that your treatment plan will be highly individualized and based on latest the advances in cancer research.
Please contact us if you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options that best fit you.