1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Metastatic Cancer to the Lungs

Metastatic Cancer to the Lungs


Updated July 14, 2014

Metastatic cancer to the lungs is the spread of cancer from another region of the body to the lungs. The place where cancer begins is called the primary cancer. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the lungs, it would be called breast cancer with metastasis (spread) to the lungs. In this case, breast cancer would be considered the “primary” cancer.

For information on metastatic lung cancer (cancer that begins in the lungs and spreads to another region of the body), see Stage 4 (Metastatic) Lung Cancer

Cancers That May Spread to the Lungs

Most cancers can spread to the lungs. The most common types include: Occasionally, physicians are unable to determine where the primary site of a cancer lies. In this case, they refer to the cancer as an unknown primary with metastasis to the lungs.


Symptoms of cancer metastatic to the lungs are similar to symptoms of primary lung cancer and can include: With metastatic lung cancer, patients often have symptoms related to the primary cancer in addition to lung symptoms. Since metastatic cancer implies that the primary cancer has spread through the body, general symptoms such as fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and decreased appetite are common as well.


Treatment for cancer metastatic to the lungs is usually determined by the primary cancer, or origin of the cancer. Chemotherapy is often the treatment of choice, and is given as palliative therapy – therapy to prolong survival and decrease symptoms. In rare instances, particularly with testicular cancer metastatic to the lungs, chemotherapy may be curative. Surgical treatment of cancer metastatic to the lungs may also rarely be curative.


National Institute of Health. Medline Plus: Metastatic cancer to the lungs. Updated 06/02/10. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000097.htm

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.