Bowel cancer that has spread to another part of the body is called secondary, advanced, or metastatic bowel cancer. You’ll find that all these terms may be used, but they mean the same thing.
Sometimes, cells from the original tumour can break off and spread, usually via the bloodstream or the lymphatic vessels to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
When this happens, it is very common to find secondary (metastatic) bowel cancer in the liver, but it can also affect the lungs in a smaller number of people. Other sites of spread are locally within the pelvis and abdomen (called peritoneal metastases), close to the original tumour in the bowel, and to the bones. Very occasionally it can also spread to the brain.
Some people find out that their cancer has spread beyond the bowel when they are first diagnosed. Others find out as a result of the pathology results from their surgery, or later during regular follow up scans and investigations, when it is called a ‘recurrence’ of the cancer.
The following pages provide information on your treatment options if your bowel cancer has spread to another part of the body.