Primary or secondary?

When does primary become a secondary? I always thought when it appeared in another organ via the blood stream. I am reading that some people have another primary even 3 times feeling confused by this. I am not at this stage I have 1 primary breast cancer newly diagnosed October22 on aromatose inhibitor after lumpectomy yet think getting put on the back list as retired. Where is the wonderful melting treatment? Who gets it ?

  • Some people can have more than one primary cancer. My personal experience is that my primary (melanoma) then spread to my lymph nodes so they were the secondaries. If it then continued to an organ, bones or brain they would be secondaries. However, I've had 7 further moles removed since that time. Fortunately all were benign but if one had been malignant it would be a new primary. Primaries aren't linked to each other, they are a 'stand alone' new malignancy. I hope this helps.

  • Okay AngieT, perhaps a little,are you medically trained? Melanoma a skin cancer anyway? Rushing to get a dictionary. Thanks

  • Pips 

    glad you posted this as I had some confusion too 

    Lovely of angie to explain this is so much detail .

  • No Pipestril, I'm not medically trained but answered your question for the moment as the nurses won't be back until tomorrow. I have, however, been a melanoma patient for many years so picked up a lot of knowledge along the way. Yes, melanoma is the most serious of the skin cancers as it is invasive and kills approximately 15% of patients each year.

    Angie (Stage 3 melanoma patient since 2009)

  • Thanks laraj, it can be very confusing and clinicians assume patients understand all the terminology which isn't always the case xx

  • Did wonder,AngieT, I actually trained  in nursing many years ago. Things have changed for the best since then. That's why I looked for my nurse dictionary. Thanks for the detail. Hope the forum nurse reply soon.pip

  • Hello and thanks for posting,

    The place where a cancer starts in the body is called the primary cancer or primary site. Cells from the primary site may break away and spread to other parts of the body. These cells can then grow and form other tumours. These are then called secondary cancers or metastases. 

    Cancers can spread through the blood stream or the lymphatic system which you can read more about here

    A primary cancer is diagnosed by a pathologist when they look at the cells under the microscope. They can tell where the cells originated from as cells in different parts of the body are very different depending on which part of the body they come from.

    Patients can have several primary cancers.  Although not common it is possible to have a second or third primary cancer because new seperate cancers can start in other parts of the body.

    Every patient is discussed in an MDT (Multi Disciplinary Team) meeting where each individual patient is discussed in some detail with all of the different doctors involved in the care of the patient. The patient is given a stage (how big the cancer is) and grade (what the cells look like) and then they can work out the most appropriate treatment. You can read more about the stage and grade for breast cancer here 

    I am not sure when you talk about 'melting treatments.'

    There are many different treatments available to treat breast cancer but not all breast cancers need to be treated in the same way. Doctors take in to account many different factors in deciding who has what treatment. We have some information about how treatment decisions are reached which you may find helpful to read here

    If you have concerns about what treatment you have been offered then do discuss with your breast care nurse or your specialist how they decided what treatment would be most suitable for your cancer.

    You are of course more then welcome to ring and speak to one of the helpline nurses.

    We are here Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and our number is freephone 0808 800 4040.

    All the best,


  • Thankyou Catherine it's much as I had thought & of course read here on this site & Google. To clarify melting cancer on TV the ad where cancer melts due to chemo. Great detail thanks again.pip