Patient Education: Cancer Recurrence Common Terms and What They Mean

Once treatment is completed, many cancer survivors find they have still have issues and concerns that they did not expect.  The one people fear the most is the news that the cancer has come back.  Patients coping with a second cancer diagnosis may hear unfamiliar medical terms related to their disease and its treatment.  We’ve highlighted some common cancer terms below and provided brief overviews of what each term means. 

Cancer Recurrence:  The return of cancer after treatment and after a period of time during which the cancer cannot be detected.  These cancer cells may have been dormant for a period of time, but eventually they continued to multiply, resulting in the reappearance of the cancer.  The same cancer may come back where it first started or somewhere else in the body. 

Localized Recurrent Cancer:  Cancer that has recurred at or near the same place as the original tumor, usually after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected. 

Metastatic Cancer:  Metastatic cancer is cancer that has spread from the place where it first started to another place in the body.  Cancer cells can travel through the lymph system to other organs or in the bloodstream to other parts of the body.  Metastatic cancer has the same name and the same type of cancer cells as the original, or primary, cancer.  For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung and forms a metastatic tumor is metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. 

Metastasis:  The process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.  

Metastatic Tumor:  A tumor formed by metastatic cancer cells.  

Being diagnosed with cancer again can be overwhelming.  Austin CyberKnife is here to help.  To speak to our patient coordinator, please call (512) 324-8060.  Also, for more information about recurrent and metastatic cancer, please visit