December 4, 2023
Metastatic carcinoma refers to cancer that has spread from its original (primary) site to other parts of the body. The term carcinoma specifically refers to a type of cancer that begins in the epithelial cells, which are the cells that line the organs and tissues of the body. For example, if someone has metastatic carcinoma of the breast, it means that cancer cells from the original breast tumor have spread to other organs or tissues in the body.
Cancer cells can break away from the primary tumor and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to distant organs or tissues, where they can form new tumors. The new tumors are called metastases. Pathologists use the terms lymphovascular invasion and angiolymphatic invasion to describe cancer cells inside of a blood vessel or lymphatic space.
Identifying the primary tumor in cases of metastatic carcinoma can be challenging, but pathologists use a combination of techniques and tests to determine the origin of the cancer.
Here are some common methods:
Despite these methods, determining the primary tumor site may not always be straightforward, especially in cases where metastasis is the first manifestation of cancer. In some instances, the primary tumor remains unidentified, and the cancer is classified as a “cancer of unknown primary” (CUP).
Metastatic carcinoma is considered advanced cancer, and it is generally more challenging to treat than cancer that is localized to its original site. Treatment for metastatic carcinoma often involves a combination of therapies, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapies, and sometimes surgery, depending on the specific characteristics of the cancer and its location. The goal of treatment is typically to control the spread of the cancer, alleviate symptoms, and improve the patient’s quality of life.
Doctors wrote this article to assist you in reading and comprehending your pathology report. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions about this article or your pathology report. To get a comprehensive introduction to your pathology report, read this article.