What is advanced cancer?
Advanced cancer is a term commonly used to describe:
- primary cancer that is unlikely to be cured
- secondary (metastatic) cancer that is unlikely to be cured.
Primary cancer is the first mass of cancer cells (tumour) that have divided and multiplied uncontrollably in an organ or tissue. The tumour is confined to its original site.
Secondary cancer is when tumour cells from the primary cancer site break off and spread to other parts of the body. The abnormal cells divide and multiply uncontrollably and form other masses of abnormal cells (metastases). This is called advanced, secondary or metastatic cancer.
Secondary cancer can occur if the primary cancer is not treated or cannot be treated. Sometimes cancer spreads before it has been diagnosed.
Advanced cancer usually cannot be cured. However, often it can be treated to slow the growth and ongoing spread of cancer, sometimes for months or years. Treatment can also help reduce any symptoms.
Secondary cancer keeps the name of the original, primary cancer. For example, bowel cancer that has spread to the liver is still called bowel cancer, even though the person may have symptoms caused by cancer cells in the liver area.