Metastases Explained

Metastases are always understood to mean a so-called daughter tumor of a tumor or tumor-like tissue. This secondary tumor is usually always outside of the part of the affected person’s body that was or was originally affected.

What are metastases?

Metastases are formed only by the malignant tumors. During the process of metastasis formation, the diseased or degenerated cells split off. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Metastases.

These split-off cells get into the bloodstream of those affected and are thus transported to different parts of the human body, where they settle again in tissue areas. It is also possible for the separated tumor cells to be distributed via the lymph.

However, the size of an existing tumor has nothing to do with its actual formation of metastases, because when breast cancer is diagnosed , for example, even very small tumors of less than one centimeter can lead to metastases.


Existing malignant tumors are referred to as causes of metastases . A metastasis is always meant with the so-called spread of existing tumors to other parts of the body. If an existing cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage, metastases are also present. In this case, the chances of recovery are already reduced.

The exact causal mechanism and the associated causes of metastases have not yet been fully clarified, because cancer cells grow uncontrollably in the human body. Cell division is a very important fact here, because during the division of the cells the connection with the surrounding tissue is interrupted for a very short time. During this short time, the degenerated cells can move through the lymph and bloodstream. The lymph nodes are very often affected because they filter out the tumor cells.

Basically, it can be said about the cause of metastases that a malignant tumor must always be present, only then can the metastases gradually become embedded in the surrounding tissue. Essentially, however, metastasis depends on the type of tumor and the origin of the respective disease in the affected patient.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Metastases are advanced stages of cancer. It can take different forms, as the symptoms depend on where in the body metastases have formed. Some metastases are already externally visible.

In addition to the skin metastases on the surface of the skin, this also applies in particular to metastases in the lymph nodes, which are usually enlarged and often easily palpable in the event of an infestation. Typical locations include the groin, armpit, collarbone fossa, and sides of the neck.

Other metastases, on the other hand, become noticeable in the functional limitations of internal organs. Lung metastases can lead to shortness of breath and blood in the sputum. Various symptoms cause brain metastases. Depending on where they are located, they can cause memory or speech problems, dizziness or fainting, and dysfunction in other areas of the body such as the legs and fingers. Metastases in the liver area are often noticeable through yellowing of the skin and tiredness.

Since metastases are signs of progressive cancer, they are often recognizable by a clearly limited resilience. Often patients also have a striking pallor. This is usually the cause of the anemia that accompanies many cancers. This is particularly the case when there are metastases in the area of ​​the spine in the spinal cord, where blood production for the body takes place.


Metastases are already a serious complication of cancer. Their migration in the body, depending on their quantity and locations, leads to other serious complications. In principle, all areas of the body that are connected to the lymphatic and circulatory system can be affected by metastases.

Crossing the blood-brain barrier is possible. Accordingly, the complications triggered by disseminated tumors are numerous. Diffuse carcinosis poses a particular risk in the metastasis of tumors. Such a condition means that an organ or tissue is invaded by cancer cells in a disorderly manner, which makes surgery considerably more difficult in the absence of a primary tumor.

Removal of entire organs or recurring tumors are often required, as is chemotherapy. Metastases in the brain are also particularly dangerous because they are difficult to operate on and lead to the most severe impairments. A large amount of metastases in the brain correlates – depending on the localization – with a very high mortality rate.

In addition, a tumor that is already metastasizing can spread its metastases so far that small accumulations of cancer cells in particular can be overlooked. So it is possible that even years after the treatment of the cancer further tumors are found as a result of the earlier metastasis.

All other complications of metastases are congruent with those of cancer. Once metastases have spread, complete treatment of the cancer is often difficult or even impossible.

When should you go to the doctor?

Metastases develop in the late stages of cancer and are an urgent need for medical attention. In most cases, the patient himself does not even think of cancer or metastases, but only now notices the first symptoms. Some cancers are so insidious and difficult to detect that the patient doesn’t realize something is wrong until the metastases have spread. Cancer patients with a known diagnosis, on the other hand, should consult their treating oncologist, who may notice that metastases are forming. Depending on the type of cancer and the part of the body affected, simple, regular palpation can be enough to detect changes such as new tumors at an early stage.

If nothing can be seen or felt, but the symptoms of cancer have changed, the doctor treating you must also examine this. Even if they’ve gotten better, the doctor needs to know that. From a certain age, regular check-ups can be attended and examinations can be carried out independently at home. At best, of course, cancer is detected before it can even metastasize. These examinations should be observed and carried out regularly, because the earlier possible metastases are detected, the better the prognosis for the patient. In addition, check-up appointments are taken over by the health insurance companies once you have reached a certain age.

Treatment & Therapy

There are different treatment options for metastases, because they can be treated with surgery as well as with chemotherapeutic and drug measures.

When treating the metastases, the location of the secondary tumors is of course also important, depending on which an operation or other measures are used. A standard therapy for metastases, especially bone metastases, is the administration of bisphosphonates.

These are special medications that enable increased incorporation of minerals and calcium into the bones. As a result, the bone loss caused by the existing tumor can be reduced and the regeneration of the already affected bone parts can begin.

Outlook & Forecast

The formation of metastases is usually synonymous with a negative prognosis. They are the most common cause of death in cancer patients. If a tumor has not yet spread, the treatment is far more promising. In principle, medical science is now able to slow down the further development of metastases. However, a final cure is considered impossible in the majority of the diseases. This requires the complete removal of all tumors.

The remaining years of life decrease significantly when the metastases have formed in vital organs. A lung attack, for example, is considered extremely unfavorable. Only every second patient survives the fifth year of life. The scatter also plays a role. If the number of tumors gets out of hand, chemotherapy is usually the only option.

In general, abstaining from nicotine and alcohol and a healthy diet in the decade before the prognosis improve the chances of success. If all metastases and the original tumor were successfully removed, the patient still has to reckon with a reduced life expectancy. Experience has shown that new tumors form in a large number of cases. Therefore, aftercare plays an important role.


Basically, it should be noted here that after a cancer diagnosis, certain measures are always taken to avoid metastasis or recurrence.

However, nobody can predict that, but the affected patients should make sure that the follow-up examinations should take place at the shortest possible intervals. This is the only way to ensure that no new metastases form.

Alternative healing methods should certainly also be used in addition to general medical internships. However, this should be discussed with the responsible oncologist, because you should only surround yourself with approved and experienced naturopaths in order to be able to explicitly record successes.


Aftercare follows the actual cancer treatment. The patients are cared for individually. Tumor follow-up care is an important part of cancer therapy. One of the most important goals of tumor follow-up care is the timely detection of a new tumor or metastases (secondary tumors) in other parts of the body.

With an early diagnosis, appropriate treatment measures can be initiated immediately, even before symptoms set in. The patient’s quality of life also plays an important role in cancer aftercare. It is important to clarify what consequences the disease or its therapy will have on the everyday life of the people affected. The patients are also supported by the therapists in dealing with the serious illness.

If necessary, they can put you in contact with various contacts, sometimes contact with self-help groups can help to balance the emotional balance by realizing that you are not alone with your suffering. Depending on the type, extent and treatment of the tumor, the doctor creates an individual aftercare plan.

It is not uncommon for there to be a smooth transition between metastasis therapy, follow-up and follow-up care. The duration of the follow-up treatment depends on how long the patient suffers from the effects of the tumor disease and when the risk of a recurrence has decreased. As a rule, five years are estimated for this.

In addition to the type of cancer, the side effects and long-term consequences of the disease and treatment as well as the individual course of the cancer are important for aftercare.

You can do that yourself

The regression of metastases is considered unlikely in a large number of patients. In most cases, the metastases can only be removed by surgery. Nevertheless, some sufferers have been reporting for years that they have been able to improve their health situation after changing their lifestyle. This also includes the regression of metastases.

A vitamin-rich and balanced diet is particularly helpful, although there is insufficient statistical evidence for its effectiveness. The information and tips from different providers must therefore be checked individually. However, medical professionals agree that there are several foods that are conducive to recovery from cancer. A sugar-free diet or fruit juices are among them. In addition, there are dietary supplements that are offered to maintain health.

In addition to a healthy diet, sufficient exercise and light sporting activities support general well-being. The consumption of harmful substances such as nicotine or alcohol should be avoided completely. Getting enough sleep, avoiding unnecessary stress and various relaxation techniques are also recommended with great success. In some cases, sufferers experience an improvement in their health when they perform yoga, autogenic training or meditation. The stabilization of mental abilities helps to deal with the current situation.