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Lymphatic metastasis

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Carcinomas are renowned for metastasising to local lymph nodes, but this may also be the route of sarcomas. Dissemination follows the natural route of lymphatic drainage for an area and so tumour cells initially collect in local lymph nodes. Exceptions occur when the tumour cells are able to bypass local nodes, so producing "skip metastasis".

Enlargement follows - lymphadenopathy - due to tumour presence, and/or reactive follicular and T-cell hyperplasia. Blockage of a lymphatic channel can result in oedema in the region of drainage.

Prime examples of lymphatic spread are:

  • cancer of the upper, outer quadrant of the breast passing to axillary nodes
  • bronchogenic carcinoma passing to perihilar mediastinal nodes

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