Understanding Colorectal Cancer: How Colorectal Cancer Spreads

There are three main ways that cancer spreads in the body. It can spread through:

  • Tissue. Cancer invades nearby normal tissue.
  • Lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
  • Blood. Cancer invades veins and capillaries and travels through the bloodstream to other parts of the body.

The original tumor is called the primary tumor. When cancer cells break away from it and travel to other places in the body, a secondary tumor can form. The name for this spreading process is metastasis.

The secondary tumor is the same kind of cancer as the primary tumor. For instance, if the cancer cells in the colon travel to the liver, it is called metastatic colon cancer. It is not liver cancer.

The liver is one of the most common places for colorectal cancer to spread. When colon or rectal cancer spreads to the liver, it is very serious. However, it can be treated and even cured.

Next: I’ve received my diagnosis. What do I do now?  And, what questions do I need to ask my doctor?

Back to “Understanding Colorectal Cancer: An Introduction”