There are many types of cancer and every cancer type develops differently. Some cancers grow slowly, some advance rapidly, and others are unpredictable in their behaviour. Some types are known to respond well to treatment in most people, while other types are more difficult to treat successfully.
Although many early-stage cancers can be treated, there are many people now living with cancer who, at some time in the future, will die of their disease.
Advanced cancer is a term commonly used to describe:
Primary cancer refers to the first mass of cancer cells (tumour) that have divided and multiplied uncontrollably in an organ or tissue. The tumour is confined to its original site, such as the breast or stomach. This is known as a cancer in-situ (or carcinoma in-situ).
Secondary cancer is when tumour cells from the primary cancer site break off and spread to other parts of the body by moving through the blood or lymphatic system. The abnormal cells divide and multiply uncontrollably and form other masses of abnormal cells (metastases).
This is also called metastatic cancer. Secondary cancer can occur if the primary cancer isn't treated or can't be treated. Sometimes cancer spreads before you're aware of it.
Advanced cancer usually can't be cured. However, it often can be treated to slow the growth and ongoing spread of the cancer, sometimes for months or years. Treatment can also help reduce any symptoms.
Secondary cancer keeps the name of the original, primary cancer. For example, bowel cancer that has spread to the liver is still called bowel cancer, even though the person may have symptoms caused by cancer cells in the liver area.