The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on September 21, 2021.

Metastatic colorectal cancer

Cancer cells may break away from a tumor in the colon or rectum and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. These cells may settle and form new tumors on a different organ. Even though the cancer has spread to a new organ, it is still named after the part of the body where it originally started. So colorectal cancer that spreads, or metastasizes, to the lungs, liver or any other organ is called metastatic colorectal cancer.

The most common site of metastases for colon or rectal cancer is the liver. Colorectal cancer cells may also spread to the lungs, bones, brain or spinal cord. If you have been treated for colorectal cancer and cancer cells have been found in these areas, it may be a sign that the original colorectal cancer has spread. Metastatic colorectal cancer is different from recurrent colorectal cancer. Recurrent colorectal cancer is cancer that returns to the same part of the colon or rectum after treatment, rather than spreading to other parts of the body.

Treatment options for metastatic colorectal cancer

Treatment options may vary depending on where the cancer has spread, but they may include surgeryradiation therapychemotherapy and/or targeted therapy.

Next topic: What are the stages of colorectal cancer?