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How Lung Cancer Spreads

Lung cancer, like all cancers, acts differently in each person, depending on the kind of lung cancer it is and the stage it is in. Researchers have, however, learned some ways that lung cancer commonly behaves when it travels to areas outside of the lungs.

metastasis
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The first place to which lung cancer usually spreads is the lymph nodes in the center of the chest. These lymph nodes are called mediastinal lymph nodes. Lung cancer may also spread to the lymph nodes in the lower neck. In its later stages, lung cancer may spread (metastasize) to distant parts of the body, like the liver, brain, or bones.

There are several types of cancer, such as breast or kidney cancer, that can spread or metastasize to the lungs. When this happens, the cancer is not called lung cancer. This is because cancer is named for (and treatment is based on) the site of the original tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the lungs, it will be treated as metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 11/30/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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