ZocdocAnswersHow quickly does cancer spread?

Question

How quickly does cancer spread?

How long would it take for cancer to spread from where it starts to other parts of your body? I'm worried about a lump on my breast that I've been meaning to have looked at for a long time, and I'm just trying to figure out the worst- case scenario.

Answer

The rate at which a cancer spreads can vary greatly depending on the primary location, microscopic appearance of the cells, size of the tumor, and appropriate chemotherapy. Some noncancerous tumors are initially slow growing and do not spread, but then eventually turn into true cancer and metastasize if untreated. Breast cancer can arise in the tubules or ducts and varies widely in its ability to spread. It is also extremely treatable (and often curable) when diagnosed at an early stage. The only way to determine whether your breast lump is cancer with potential to spread is by seeing a doctor. A full review of your symptoms and family history will be informative, along with a breast and lymph node exam. Your physician may decide to order further imaging studies or consult a surgeon for biopsy. It is extremely important that your breast lump be evaluated as soon as possible so that you no longer have to consider the worst case scenario. The risk of having a benign growth evaluated is far outweighed by the risk of developing an incurable cancer which could have been treated if diagnosed at an earlier stage.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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