Metastatic Cancer: The Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
Metastasis, or the spread of cancer from one location in the body to another, is a common and dreaded occurrence. However, research has shown that when you are aware of the various symptoms of metastatic cancer, it can greatly improve your chances of survival. The earlier you detect metastatic disease, the better your chances of survival will be. Knowing the different stages of metastatic cancer and understanding the possible treatment options can help you make informed decisions about your life and future.
What is metastatic cancer?
Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the body. Cancer can start in almost any part of the body in either tissue (organs) or in the body’s own tissue (the tumour). When cancer spreads to other areas of the body (metastasises), it is called metastatic cancer. Typically, cancer cells leave the primary tumor and travel through the blood and lymphatic systems, finding new places to grow in the body. It is the presence of cancer cells in other parts of the body that is called metastasis. There are different stages of metastatic cancer. It is important to know which stage of metastatic cancer you are in so that you can get the best treatment options.
Stages of metastatic cancer
– Primary – This stage is usually diagnosed at the time of the cancer being present in the body. The cancer cells have ended up in the original organ, tissues or tissues around the tumour site. This can be due to a minor, non-cancerous injury to the body, or a major injury caused by cancer. – In Situ – This stage is when cancer has spread from the primary site to nearby tissues, but the cancer cells have not yet invaded other areas of the body. – Advanced – In the advanced stage of metastatic cancer, the cancer has spread to other areas of the body and is now causing serious damage to healthy tissues. – Recurrent – The cancer has come back after a period of being in remission. – Fatal – At this stage, there is advanced destruction of tissues, and the person affected may not survive much beyond a few months.
Signs and symptoms of metastatic cancer
– Weight loss – The most common symptom of metastatic cancer is the loss of appetite and the desire to eat. This could be due to nausea and/or pain, and once again, it is important that you seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms. – Anorexia – You may also experience anorexia, or the loss of your appetite for food. As the cancer progresses, it may also affect your mouth, making it difficult to eat, or causing pain in your throat. – Vomiting – Another symptom that could indicate the presence of metastatic cancer is the urge to vomit. – Swollen abdomen – A swollen abdomen is another sign that you might have metastatic cancer. This could be due to fluid build-up in your abdomen or a protruding tumor. – Weight loss – Another common symptom of metastatic cancer is the loss of weight. If you have been losing weight for some time, even if you are still eating, it could be because of metastatic cancer.
Treatments for metastatic cancer
Treatment for metastatic cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the location and extent of the metastasis. Metastatic cancer is usually treated with a combination of therapies, which may include:
- Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It may be given orally, intravenously, or through an injection. Chemotherapy can have side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy beams of radiation to kill cancer cells. It may be used to shrink tumors or to relieve pain caused by metastases.
- Targeted therapy: This treatment targets specific proteins or other molecules that help cancer cells grow and divide. Targeted therapy can have fewer side effects than chemotherapy, but it may not be effective for all types of cancer.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. It may be given through a vaccine, infusion, or injection. Immunotherapy can have side effects such as fatigue, fever, and flu-like symptoms.
- Surgery: This treatment may be used to remove the primary tumor, as well as metastases that are causing symptoms or are in a location where they can be safely removed.
- Palliative care: This treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life for people with advanced cancer. It may include pain management, emotional support, and other therapies.
Treatment for metastatic cancer is often complex, and may involve a team of specialists such as oncologists, radiologists, and surgeons. The goal of treatment is to slow the progression of the cancer, relieve symptoms, and improve quality of life.
Late-stage metastatic cancer
Cancer that has spread to the bones, organs and other soft tissues is considered late-stage metastatic cancer. Cancer that has spread to the liver, lungs and brain is also considered to be a late-stage metastatic cancer. It is difficult to treat late-stage metastatic cancer. When cancer has spread to the organs, you may have just a few weeks, months or years to live. Unfortunately, there is no way to cure late-stage metastatic cancer. However, treatments can prolong survival times, improve quality of life and make you comfortable at the end of your life. There are a few late-stage metastatic cancer treatment options available. – Whole-body radiation therapy – Whole-body radiation therapy targets the entire body and delivers high doses of radiation to all parts of the body. – Liver transplantation – Liver transplantation could be an option when the cancer has spread to the liver. This procedure involves removing one of your healthy livers and transplanting the organ into someone who has cancer in their liver.
Prognosis: The good, the bad and the unknown
The prognosis is the expected outcome of a given cancer. The prognosis of metastatic cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the disease and whether the cancer has spread to different parts of the body. Thankfully, with early detection and treatment, the prognosis of metastatic cancer is generally better than it was five or 10 years ago. Moreover, research is constantly being done to improve treatment options for metastatic cancers. Researchers are constantly looking for better ways to diagnose, treat and even cure metastatic cancers. However, despite all the advancements in research and technology, there remains one thing that we cannot change – cancer is a genetic disease, and it is unknown what causes some people to develop it, while others are born with it.