Cancer has the potential to spread and cause additional tumors to grow in other parts of the body, separate from the original tumor site. When a cancerous tumor grows, it sheds cancer cells into the lymphatic system and into the blood. Many and sometimes all of the cancerous cells that are shed are destroyed by our immune system or by other mechanisms and do not spread.
However, sometimes the cancerous cells do spread. This is why catching cancer at an early stage provides a better chance of cure. As tumors grow in size more and more cells are shed, and once spread to lymph nodes or distant organs has occurred, the chance of cure decreases.
Different tumor types tend to spread to specific lymph nodes and organs. There is no certainty about where any given type of cancer can spread. For the cancer to spread to a particular lymph node or distant organ, a hospitable environment that supports the growth of that particular tumor must exist.
In addition, a set of receptors on normal cells of the distant organ is typically necessary for the cancerous cells to latch onto and take hold. If a cancer spreads to a distant organ, such as a colon cancer spreading to the liver, the cancer is still called colon cancer. It is not then called colon cancer and liver cancer.
The lymphatic system is an interconnected series of lymphatic vessels similar to a system of blood vessels. This system moves lymph, which is a fluid that travels within the lymph system, to and through the hundreds of lymph nodes throughout the human body.
The lymphatic system is part of your immune system and is designed to filter infectious agents and cellular waste. Most cancerous tumors shed cancerous cells first to lymph nodes closest to the tumor. There are instances when cancerous cells can get into lymph nodes that are distant from the original tumor. If the cancerous cells are not destroyed in the lymph node, they can take up residence within one or more lymph nodes allowing new tumors to grow within the lymph nodes.
When metastasis to distant organs occurs, the chance for cure is typically much lower. Many factors determine whether new tumors can form in any number of distant organs. Spread to distant organs is not a random process.
As described above, for metastasis to occur, there needs to be a hospitable environment in which the tumor cells can grow. In addition, the cancerous cells typically attach to specific receptors on the normal cells of the distant organ where they take hold and form a metastatic tumor in that organ. For most cancer types, there tend to be specific organs where metastases are likely to occur. A common organ where a variety of cancers can spread is the liver. The liver is a common site treated by hyperthermia.
Hyperthermia is a local therapy that treats specific sites of tumors in the body. It can be combined with chemotherapy or other systemic therapies as well as with radiation therapy to treat lymph nodes or distant organs where cancer has spread. Improving your therapeutic regimen leads to the best outcome.
For all patients, the goal is to choose the right therapy or combination of therapies that leads to the best outcome while minimizing side effects. Adding hyperthermia can maximize the effectiveness of your therapeutic regimen without risking sensitive surrounding organs. And hyperthermia often has no or minimal side effects and has no known adverse effects on normal tissue.