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Also known as 'secondary cancer', metastatic disease refers to the predisposition of cancer to spread to other sites in the body. Indeed, it is this property of cancer that makes it so fatal (e.g. the term cancer metastatic to liver implies that a cancer that may have arisen originally in the lung or breast etc. has shed off cells that have travelled to the liver and taken fresh roots here.

It is important to note that when the doctor refers to metastatic cancer in the liver or metastatic disease in the bones, this is not the same as he means when he uses the term: 'liver cancer' or 'bone cancer'.

The doctor means liver cancer when he refers to hepatocellular carcinoma (i.e. a cancer that originated in the liver) and he means bone cancer when he is referring to osteogenic sarcoma, which is a primary bone cancer. The point is worth labouring because secondary cancer in the liver, from, say, breast cancer, behaves like breast cancer and responds to drugs that are active in breast cancer and does not respond to agents that are used in osteogenic sarcoma, etc. etc.

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