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Cancer with metastases - what is dangerous and how to treat

In Russia, there is a widespread stereotype that stage 4 cancer and metastases are the final verdict. Moreover, oncology is not as scary for the patient as metastatic lesions. Fortunately, every year doctors develop and improve new methods of treating tumor diseases at all stages.

What are metastases and how are they formed?

A characteristic sign of severe, stage 4 cancer of the breast, liver, lungs and other types oncological diseases – this is the appearance of metastases. They are secondary foci of malignant neoplasms, which are formed from mutated cells transported with the blood or lymph flow to another organ or tissue.

Circulating cancer cells can remain in organs for a certain time in an inactive, “dormant” state. Under the influence of various unfavorable factors, over time they begin to actively multiply and form secondary foci of the primary tumor - distant metastases in the liver, lungs, lymph nodes and other parts of the body. As a result, the normal structure and functioning of vital organs is disrupted, severe pain appears, and the result is the same - death.

The relationship between “metastasis and cancer grade” is direct. The development of the metastatic process depends on the stage of oncological pathology. Namely:

Stage I - the malignant neoplasm is only a few centimeters in diameter, there are no external manifestations or secondary lesions.
Stage II – the size of the tumor exceeds 2 centimeters, clinical manifestations are pronounced, and a single metastasis, as a rule, develops in a nearby lymph node without affecting other organs and tissues.
Stage III - the malignant tumor grows, and the process of metastasis intensifies, which is why multiple foci of secondary damage appear in nearby lymph nodes.
Stage IV cancer with metastases is a terminal, severe degree of oncopathology that is practically untreatable. The tumor can be of any size, but metastatic foci develop in other internal organs.

Thus, the formation of almost every type of malignant tumor is accompanied by the development of pathologies such as metastases. The stage of cancer can be third or fourth, not lower.

All types of secondary pathology go through identical stages of formation:

Intravasation: The malignant cell invades the blood or lymphatic vessels.
Dissemination: circulation of tumor cells throughout the body through the blood or lymph.
Extravasation: penetration of pathology into the perivascular space (organs and tissues).
Development of a secondary lesion.

The above classification can be designated as metastasis stages, although this is not entirely correct. All secondary neoplasms follow the same path and differ only in size and location.

What reasons influence the formation of metastases?

Factors contributing to the formation of metastases include disruption of the anticancer defense system - antitumor immunity. Under normal conditions, this natural mechanism protects the body from the occurrence of tumors, actively suppressing the growth of malignant cells formed during life.

The stimulus for the spread of foci of malignant tumors in patients is:

bad ecology;
harmful working or living conditions;
genetic factors;
some infectious diseases (for example, hepatitis C can cause cancer to develop or spread to the liver);
bad habits;
radiation exposure.

As a rule, the localization of metastases does not have a specific relationship. Thus, with metastases in the lungs, tumor cells can move and settle in the head area, and with metastases in the bones - in the abdominal cavity. According to statistics, most often secondary lesions, regardless of the type of the original tumor, are found in the liver, lungs, lymph nodes, brain, and less often in other organs and tissues.

Metastases: symptoms and detection methods

  • Clinical manifestations of secondary lesions depend on the organ in which they are located. If the lungs are damaged, severe shortness of breath may be a concern, not only during physical activity, but also at rest, as well as a cough with sputum streaked with blood. When the brain is damaged, headaches in the morning, dizziness, blurred vision (double vision), convulsions, speech disorders, and sensory distortions are observed. Common symptoms are:
  • fast fatiguability;
  • constant feeling of weakness, fatigue;
  • permanent feeling of pain in the affected area;
  • cramps and bleeding;
  • cognitive and functional disorders.
  • The appearance of distant metastases is detected with an accuracy of up to 90% using special “golden” diagnostic methods: CT, MRI, PET-CT, ultrasound. The research technique is chosen by the attending physician based on the type of cancer the patient has, as well as the expected location of the formation of a secondary tumor (according to general symptoms).
  • An examination to identify possible foci of metastasis is carried out in patients:
  • before the start of the treatment course;
  • after surgical removal of the primary tumor.

How long do people live with metastases?

Patients always ask the attending physician: are there metastases, what is the prognosis for life with them?! Unfortunately, there is no clear answer, but it is known that life expectancy and survival rate for stage 4 cancer with metastases is low. The patient's condition is usually severe, and there are concomitant diseases (especially in elderly patients).

If there are metastases, prognoses are usually imprecise and are based on a group of factors. Of particular importance is the duration of the disease (the shorter the better), as well as the reserves of anti-cancer therapy (the more methods that can be used, the higher the likelihood of obtaining a positive result).

Treatment of metastases - myth or reality

Regardless of whether a tumor disease has been detected for the first time or anti-oncological treatment has already been carried out, the appearance of distant metastases always indicates a significant prevalence of the pathological process and its high aggressiveness.

If metastases are detected, antitumor therapy is carried out. Depending on the location of the lesions, previous treatment, and the characteristics of the tumor itself, the patient may undergo surgery to remove the secondary pathological focus.

Most often, single metastases are operated on. But in some cases other treatment methods are used, such as:
  • Radiation therapy, which allows you to reduce the size of the lesion and/or relieve pain when skeletal bones are affected. It is prescribed more often to cure cases with single lesions.
  • Chemotherapy, which stops the growth of the tumor. Due to the toxic drugs used, the entire body usually suffers.
  • Targeted therapy involves the use of drugs that act specifically on tumor cells, and not on healthy ones, as during chemotherapy. Despite the best indicators, the possibilities for use are limited and depend on the type of disease and other specific factors.
  • Hormone therapy is used as an anticancer treatment to block hormone levels in the body. This type of drug treatment allows you to block or slow down the growth of a malignant neoplasm. And others.
Thus, almost all types of therapeutic interventions involve drug treatment of cancer. But all drugs have a systemic effect on the body, affecting not only tissues altered by the tumor process, but also normal ones. The most toxic type of treatment is chemotherapy. Currently, various methods of drug support for patients undergoing such treatment have been developed, but toxic manifestations cannot be completely eliminated.

The principle of complex treatment is most often used. That is, not one type of therapy is prescribed, but several depending on the type of cancer, medical history, patient’s age and some other factors.

It should be noted that achieving complete tumor regression (resorption of all existing primary and secondary lesions) is rarely observed. In most cases, there is a partial reduction in tumor size, stopping further cancer growth and metastases. Treatment brings the tumor under short-term control. In the future, it is necessary to increase the body's own defenses. “Weakness” of the immune system not only leads to the development of infectious complications during antitumor treatment, but can also contribute to further progression (growth) of the tumor disease.

To increase the effectiveness of standard methods of treating the primary tumor and metastases, the OncoCare 308 LLC clinic has developed special programs of antimetastatic cytokinogenetic therapy. These programs were tested in large clinical centers in 2010–2017: All-Russian Oncology Center named after. N.N. Blokhin (Moscow), Rostov Research Oncology Institute, Medical Radiological Research Center named after A.F. Tsyba. The use of cytokinogenetic drugs is possible in the preoperative and postoperative periods - to prepare for surgery or speedy recovery after it. It is also compatible with radiation and all types of drug therapy, increasing their antitumor effectiveness and reducing the percentage of side effects. At the same time, the intrinsic toxicity of the drugs is minimal, and there is no increase in harm from radiation or chemotherapy.

In cases where surgical, radiation or drug treatment is contraindicated or impossible due to the patient’s weakened condition, cytokinegenetic therapy can be used as an independent method that normalizes the condition, reduces pain, increases the patient’s appetite and motor activity.

In palliative patients (that is, with exhausted antitumor treatment options, poor physical condition, multiple organ failure), as well as elderly people, cytokine therapy can be used as an independent method.

According to specialists at the OncoCare 308 clinic, tumor regression is achieved in many cases. Including in inoperable patients or in late stages of the disease, as well as in people who have been treated without success with various anticancer drugs. All other things being equal, patients treated with cytokinogenetic therapy programs have the opportunity to live longer!
Thus, treatment of cancer with metastases is not a myth, but a very real, controlled process that can be transformed from hopeless to sluggish. Our specialists know how to help even hopeless patients and achieve the best results in complex treatment. You can learn more about the modern method of antimetastatic cytokinogenetic therapy by calling the OncoCare308 LLC clinic. Make an appointment with an oncologist at our medical institution by calling: 8 (499) 322-23-08.

Author of the article:

Aleksanyan Aleksan Zavenovich

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