Metastatic cancer (also known as Stage IV cancer) is not a single type of cancer, but rather a term used to describe any cancer that has spread from the area it started to other areas of the body. Although cancer can spread to any part of the body, the most common sites of metastasis are the bones, liver and lungs.
- Metastasis causes more than 90% of cancer-related deaths, but receives less than 5% of the funding.
- Metastatic cancer can occur 5, 10, 15 or more years after a person’s original diagnosis and/or after successful treatment checkups and annual screenings.
- When cancer spreads to a new area, it’s still named after the part of the body where it started. As an example, breast cancer that has spread to the lungs is called “metastatic breast cancer to the lungs” – it’s not lung cancer.
- Although some types of metastatic cancer may be cured with treatment, most cannot right now.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2023
Signs and Symptoms
Patients with metastatic cancer may not experience symptoms. When symptoms do occur, the symptoms and how often the patient has them will depend on the size and location of the metastatic tumors.
Some common signs of metastatic cancer include:
- Pain and fractures, when cancer has spread to the bone
- Headache, seizures, or dizziness, when cancer has spread to the brain
- Shortness of breath, when cancer has spread to the lung
- Jaundice or swelling in the belly, when cancer has spread to the liver
- Loss of energy and feeling weak and/or tired
- Weight loss (without trying)