Secondary cancers (metastases)

When a cancer starts in one place in the body and spreads elsewhere, this is a secondary cancer or a ‘metastasis’.

The place in the body where a cancer first starts is the ‘primary cancer’. Sometimes, cancer cells can break off from the primary cancer and spread elsewhere in the body. Cancer can then grow in another part of the body.

When this happens, this is secondary (metastatic) cancer.

Secondary cancer isn’t the same thing as cancer coming back in the same place where it first started. This is a local recurrence of the cancer and doesn’t mean the cancer has spread.

Depending on where the cancer has spread to you, we have different information for you to read. Our pages on secondary cancer include:

Last updated: March 2023