Can advanced or metastatic cancer be prevented?

For now, the best way to keep cancer from growing and spreading is to find it early and remove or destroy it. The American Cancer Society recommends routine early detection tests for some cancers, such as those of the breast, colon, and cervix. People who do not follow these recommendations are more likely to have cancer found after it has already spread. Still, tests to find cancer early are not perfect, so even people who follow these guidelines can have cancer that has spread at the time of diagnosis. And for many cancers, no test so far has helped find the cancer early and helped people live longer.

Patients with certain cancers, such as breast or colorectal cancer, are often given other treatments after surgery to try to kill cancer cells that might have broken away from the primary tumor. This can lower the risk that the cancer will come back and spread.

Researchers are looking for new ways to keep cancer from spreading. For example, drugs are being studied that might block the enzymes that help cancer cells break holes through the walls of blood vessels.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: February 7, 2014 Last Revised: March 6, 2014

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