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Metastatic cancer

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Lung metastases

Metastatic cancer occurs when cancer spreads from its original location (primary tumour) to a new part of the body. Lung (pulmonary) metastases occur when a cancer spreads to the lung from its primary site. Lung metastases are different from a cancer that starts in the lung (called primary lung cancer). The lungs are among the most common places where cancer can spread.

Cancers that spread to the lung

Lung metastases only develop if a person already has cancer. Almost any type of cancer can spread to the lung. Cancers that typically spread to the lung include:

  • lung – metastases occur in the other (contralateral) lung
  • breast
  • skin (melanoma)
  • pancreas
  • kidney
  • colorectal
  • head and neck – such as oral, pharyngealpharyngealThe hollow tube in the upper part of the neck that starts behind the nose and mouth and leads to the esophagus (the tube that goes to the stomach) and the larynx (voice box). and laryngeallaryngealThe tube-shaped organ in the neck, between the pharynx (throat) and trachea (windpipe), that is part of the airway and contains the vocal cords, which produce sound. cancer
  • thyroid
  • testicular
  • bladder
  • esophageal
  • stomach
  • liver
  • bone
  • soft tissue sarcoma
  • ovarian
  • cervical
  • prostate
  • lymphoma

Occasionally, cancer spreads to the lung but the original location of the cancer in the body is not known. This is called cancer of unknown primary (CUP).

Where lung metastases occur

Lung metastases can occur anywhere in the lung. Most people will have multiple lung metastases. Single lung metastases are uncommon and occur in only a small number of people with cancer. Single lung metastases occur most often with sarcomas.

Find out more about signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, follow-up after treatment and supportive care for lung metastases.

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