What Does Vascular Invasion Mean?

Dr. Larry Norton answers the question: 'What Does Vascular Invasion Mean?'

ByLarry Norton, M.D., Deputy Physician-in-Chief, Breast Cancer Programs, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

— -- Question:What Does Vascular Invasion Mean?

Answer: Before a cancer can spread to the rest of the body, it has to get into the channels that go through the rest of the body; that's lymph channels or blood channels, particularly the venous system. If the cell gets into the veins, it can go to the heart, and the heart can pump those cells to the rest of the body; and it might grow in those places.

One of the indicators that we have that cells have a tendency to go into the vascular system and to spread to the rest of the body is called 'vascular invasion.' And when we see, under the microscope, cells that are actually getting into blood vessels, this gives us some indication that these cells may have a tendency to spread; and we should use drugs that kill cells wherever we find them that goes through the blood stream, such as hormone therapies and chemotherapies.

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