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Metastatic Cancer to Skin

Last updated Nov. 23, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

DoveMed.com

Microscopic pathology image showing metastatic carcinoma to skin.


What are the other Names for this Condition? (Also known as/Synonyms)

  • Cutaneous Metastasis
  • Metastasis of Skin
  • Skin Tumors due to Metastasis

What is Metastatic Cancer to Skin? (Definition/Background Information)

Basic information on Metastatic Cancer to Skin is as follows:

  • Metastatic Cancer of Skin is a condition where cancers originating from various parts of the body spread to the skin. Metastasis can occur on the skin, either as a single nodule or multiple nodules. If these nodules get large in size, then they can ulcerate and bleed
  • Some cancers metastasize to skin more often than other cancer types. Common cancers that metastasize to skin include:
    • Melanoma
    • Breast cancer
    • Cancer of nasal cavities and nasal sinuses
    • Cancer of larynx (wind pipe)
    • Cancers of endocrine glands           
    • Cancers of oral cavity
    • Cancer of esophagus (food pipe)
    • Cancers of kidney
    • Stomach cancer
  • Metastatic cancer of skin can arise due to the spread of cancer from a variety of different organs including the breast, nasal cavities and nasal sinuses, larynx, endocrine glands, mouth, esophagus, kidney, and stomach. The condition typically affects the elderly adults
  • Metastatic Cancer to Skin can cause a variety of signs and symptoms, which depends on the body parts and organs affected. Some complications include metastasis to other parts of the body, ulceration and bleeding from large-sized nodules, and treatment complications
  • Usually, treatment for Metastatic Cancer to Skin involves treating the underlying cancer. These methods could include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. The prognosis of the condition depends on the severity of signs and symptoms, the number of organs systems affected, and the response to treatment. However, it is generally poor

Who gets Metastatic Cancer to Skin? (Age and Sex Distribution)

  • Metastatic Cancer to Skin can occur at any age; however, it usually occurs in older individuals
  • Both males and females can be affected; there is no gender preference
  • The condition can occur worldwide and has no racial or ethnic preference

What are the Risk Factors for Metastatic Cancer to Skin? (Predisposing Factors)

The risk factors of Metastatic Cancer to Skin depend upon the risk factors associated with the underlying (primary) cancer.

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.

Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.

What are the Causes of Metastatic Cancer to Skin? (Etiology)

When cancers spread from their original site and affects the skin, the condition is termed as Metastatic Cancer to Skin.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Metastatic Cancer to Skin?

Metastatic Cancer to Skin can cause several different signs and symptoms depending on the parts of the body and organs affected. The timing of the signs and symptoms are important to determine the condition; Metastatic Cancer to Skin can develop in days to weeks.

  • Usually, the skin nodules are skin-colored. Typically, the nodules match the background skin and occasionally become red due to inflammation. The metastatic nodules can occur anywhere in the body. Some cancers can have specific features when they metastasize to the skin. 
  • Metastasis from a malignant melanoma to the skin can appear black or brown in color due to the presence of melanin pigment within the tumor
  • Metastatic breast cancers to the skin can appear either as a patch or a plaque. This cancer infection of the skin is called erysitelas. Hence, such metastasis to the skin is also called carcinoma erysitelatoides
  • Breast cancer metastasis to the skin can also appear as reddish skin with small red dots. This pattern of metastasis is often called telangiectatic metastatic carcinoma
  • Paget’s disease of skin often appears as a well-defined plaque (thickened skin), which can be red due to inflammation, with scaly flakes due to reaction of the skin, and bleed or even ulcerate
  • Often, lung cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer can metastasize to the scalp of the head as firm nodules. Such a metastasis to the scalp can result in hair loss similar to alopecia areata. This type of hair loss is also termed as alopecia neoplastica
  • Colon cancers can metastasize to skin of the abdomen and to the perianal region
  • Lung cancer can metastasize to the skin of the scalp, front of the chest, and back. Sometimes, the lung cancer can also appear in the scar tissue on the chest wall caused by surgical incision for a lung removal surgery
  • Rarely, metastasis to the skin can also occur at the point of insertion of the needle during a fine needle biopsy of the lung mass
  • Kidney cancer, when it metastasizes to the skin, can involve the skin of the scalp, the front of the chest, the back, arms, and legs. This metastasis can be pulsatile due to increased blood vessels within the tumor deposits. Sometimes, such metastasis can also have a stalk to give it a pedunculated appearance
  • Cancer of the bladder and ovary can metastasize as multiple nodules on the skin of the abdominal region

How is Metastatic Cancer to Skin Diagnosed?

Metastatic Cancer to Skin is diagnosed using the following methods:

  • A thorough physical examination and a complete medical history are very crucial
  • Complete blood count (CBC) with differential of white blood cells (WBCs)
  • Liver function test (LFT)
  • Radiological studies of the affected region that include:
    • X-ray
    • CT scan
    • MRI scan
    • Ultrasound scan
    • Vascular radiological studies         
    • Whole body bone scan
  • A skin biopsy or a tissue biopsy: A skin or tissue biopsy is performed and sent to a laboratory for a pathological examination, which is generally considered to be a ‘gold standard’ for a definitive diagnosis. A pathologist examines the biopsy under a microscope. After putting together clinical findings, special studies on tissues (if needed), and with microscope findings, the pathologist arrives at a definitive diagnosis

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

What are the possible Complications of Metastatic Cancer to Skin?

Complications due to Metastatic Cancer to Skin could include:

  • Metastasis can be in the form of single or multiple nodules on the skin. If these nodules get bigger in size, then they can ulcerate and bleed
  • There could be metastasis to other parts of the body due to advanced stage of the cancer
  • Metastatic Cancer to Skin is known to have a high recurrence rate, even after surgical excision and removal
  • Damage of vital nerves, blood vessels, and surrounding structures during surgery
  • Side effects from chemotherapy (toxicity) or radiation therapy

How is Metastatic Cancer to Skin Treated?

The treatment measures for Metastatic Cancer to Skin include:

  • Usually, treatment for Metastatic Cancer to Skin involves treating the underlying cancer
  • The treatment methods may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy

How can Metastatic Cancer to Skin be Prevented?

Early diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cancer may help to prevent Metastatic Cancer to Skin.

What is the Prognosis of Metastatic Cancer to Skin? (Outcomes/Resolutions)

  • The prognosis of Metastatic Cancer to Skin depends on many factors such as the severity of signs and symptoms, the number of organ systems affected, and the individual’ response to treatment
  • Individuals, who respond well to treatment, have better prognosis than those who do not respond to treatment
  • However, the prognosis is usually poor because skin metastasis often indicates a high-stage (advanced) cancer. It can result in death

Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Metastatic Cancer to Skin:

Please visit our Cancer & Benign Tumors Center for more physician-approved health information:

http://www.dovemed.com/diseases-conditions/cancer/

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 30, 2015
Last updated: Nov. 23, 2018