Where Colon Cancer Spreads

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If you have advanced colon cancer, there's a chance the cancer may spread to other parts of your body. Over time, cells will break off from the original tumor. If they go into your lymphatic system, the cancer can spread to your lymph nodes. This can make your lymph nodes feel hard or swollen. It may also block lymph fluid from draining, causing the area to swell.

If the cancer cells enter your bloodstream, they can spread to other parts of your body. The liver is the most common place that colon cancer spreads because the blood from your intestine flows directly to your liver as it returns to your heart. Once the cancer cells reach small blood vessels, they can invade the blood vessel walls and move into the nearby tissue. As the cancer cells grow, a small tumor forms. This causes new blood vessels to form, which feed the growing tumor.

If colon cancer spreads to liver, you may notice weight loss, yellowing skin, or pain on the right side of your belly. Besides the liver, colon cancer can also spread to the lungs. This is because there is a large amount of blood flowing to your lungs, which may carry cancer cells from the bowel. When the cancer spreads to your lungs, you may have shortness of breath, chest infections, or a cough that won't go away.

Another place colon cancer can spread is your peritoneum, the membrane that lines the inside of your belly and pelvis. For more information about how colon cancer can spread, talk to your doctor.