27th May 2022

What happens when lung cancer spreads

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Finding out that your lung cancer has spread can be extremely frightening. You may feel out of control and worried about what the future holds. It may help to understand exactly why lung cancer spreads, what happens when it does, and what support is available for you.

Why does lung cancer spread?

Every lung cancer is different – two of the same types of lung cancer may have completely different behaving cells.

Cancer cells that have been growing over time can double, mutate, and divide. Sometimes these lung cancer cells break away from the lung and spread through blood vessels or the lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Where can lung cancer spread?

Not every lung cancer will spread. However, if it does, there are some more common areas of the body that your lung cancer might spread (or metastasise) to.

  • – Lymph nodes
  • – Further areas of the lung, or the other lung
  • – Bones
  • – Liver
  • – Brain
  • – Adrenal glands

Lung cancer that has spread to local lymph nodes are normally treated to hopefully prevent further spreading.

If your lung cancer has spread to other organs, it is often considered incurable.

Incurable is a hard word to hear, however, incurable doesn’t always mean that the lung cancer is not treatable.

Thanks to advances, people with treatable cancers, if suitable, can receive immunotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapies

Anne Libby is living with incurable lung cancer and after being on a combination of chemo and immunotherapy every three weeks, she is now on maintenance chemotherapy and her tumours remain stable.

“I love hearing that word. Stable. When you get your latest scan results, and they say the word ‘Stable’ it’s a huge relief because you can get on with living for another three months before the next scan.”

Read Anne’s story here.

But what does stable mean?

If your check up scans show that your cancer is stable – this means that the cancer has not grown, spread, or reduced, it is then referred to as ‘stable’.

How quickly does lung cancer spread?

The speed that lung cancer can spread varies for a few reasons. One reason is the type of lung cancer – small cell lung cancer tends to grow and spread faster than non-small cell lung cancer. Everyone reacts differently to treatment, so the speed that lung cancer may spread can vary from person to person.

What support is available

Finding out that you are living with an incurable lung cancer can be a real shock. You may feel overwhelmed, anxious and uncertain. Remember to ask your lung cancer specialist nurse and consultant any questions you have – they are there to support you.

As well as your multi-disciplinary team, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is here for you throughout your lung cancer journey.

Ask the Nurse helpline

Our free telephone helpline is here to answer any questions you might have about your prognosis, treatment, or side effects. Available Monday to Thursday 9am – 5pm and Friday 9am to 4pm. Freephone 0800 358 7200                

Lung Cancer Connect

It’s important that people living with lung cancer can access as much information as possible – so we launched online support sessions that you can access from the comfort of your own home. Our experienced facilitators host sessions focussing on managing during treatment, living with lung cancer and more. These meetings allow people to share whatever they are comfortable with and connect with others in similar situations.                 

Find out more and sign up

Online forum

Join our dedicated lung cancer forum to connect with others who are living with lung cancer. Users ask for advice and share their experiences and can do this anonymously if they wish. Sign up for free by visiting: http://healthunlocked.com/lungcancer

Lung cancer information booklets

Our lung cancer information booklets offer a wide range of information about living with lung cancer, managing symptoms and specific information about treatments. Working with lung cancer experts and others affected, these booklets provide clear and practical information.

Read these by clicking here