Stage 4 Cancer or Metastasis

stage 4 cancerFinding out that you have a stage 4 cancer is the most horrifying day of someone’s life. An initial reaction would be an endless rollercoaster ride of negativity. After the diagnosis, the doctor or specialist will determine the prognosis of your condition.

What are my chances?

What is Stage 4 cancer?

Staging is a process of describing how far the cancer has grown and how large it is. It is important to know the kind of treatment you should be undergoing because treatment for Stage 1 is different in advance cancer or Stage 4. The completion of staging would rely on whether the patient finishes the entire test or not.

Because of Staging the doctor will know the plan treatment, including the type of surgery, and if chemotherapy and radiotherapy (radiation) is needed. Doctors or specialist can also predict the chance of recovery and the chance of the cancer cells to come back after the original treatment. Staging is also essential in finding out the effectiveness of the treatment.

In Staging, experts use TNM staging system. TNM stands for Tumour, Nodes and Metastasis.

  • T – Describes the size of the cancer cells and how far it has spread to the tissue. T uses numbers from 1 to 4 where 1 means the cancer is small.
  • N – Describes if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. N uses 0 and 3, where 0 means no lymph nodes containing cancer cells and 3 means there are lots of nymph nodes containing cancer cells.
  • M – Describes whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body. M uses 1 and 0 where 0 means cancer hasn’t spread and 1 means cancer has spread.


Stage 4 cancer is when cancer cells spread far away from the origin into other parts of the body. The cancer cells travel through the lymph system or blood and form a new tumor in other tissues or parts of the body. This progress can also be called as Metastasis or advance stage. However, “locally advance” is different from metastasis cancer. In locally advance, cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes or nearby tissues but not the entire body.

All types of cancer can spread or metastasize. These are the factors to consider on how metastasis happens:

  • Type of cancer
  • How fast the growth of it
  • How long the patient have it before treatment

Cancer cells can spread to any organ but this are the parts of the body where metastasis often happen:

  • Bones
  • Brain
  • Liver
  • Lymph nodes
  • Lungs

These are the cancers that tend to spread on a certain parts of the body.

  • Breast cancer regularly spread to the bones, liver, lungs, chest wall and brain
  • Lung cancer regularly spread to  the brain, bones, liver and adrenal glands
  • Prostate cancer regularly spread to the bones
  • Colon and rectal cancer regularly spread to the lungs and liver.

Even though metastasis occurs, doctors give the same name as the original cancer. For example, a breast cancer spread to the lungs, it is called “metastasis breast cancer,” not lung cancer. Nevertheless, tumors of different locations still represent breast cancer, specialist are still studying more about how metastasis differ from its original tumor at the genetic and molecular level.

Can Stage 4 curable?

The good news is yes it can be cured for some cases. Stage 4 can often be treated, even if the cancer can’t be cured. Treatment can shrink the cancer, slow its growth, help you relieve the symptoms and help you live longer.

People who survive for months or years, the treatment for the cancer will be like a chronic illness. Examples of these illnesses are heart disease and diabetes.

When you live for cancer with many years, it is important to follow your treatment plan so it works as well possible. Support in enduring physical, mental and emotional challenges is also needed in the long run.