Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

What is superficial cancer growth?

Cancer develops from a single cell, or group of cells. These cells begin to multiply and go on multiplying. A lump of cancer cells begins to develop. 

To start with, these cancer cells are contained inside the body tissue from which they have developed - for example, the cells lining the ducts of the breast, the top layer of skin, or the lining of the bladder. All body tissues have a sort of fence, keeping the cells of that tissue inside. This is called the basement membrane. 

At this stage, the cancer is called a carcinoma in situ. The cancer cells cannot spread to anywhere else in the body because they have not broken through the basement membrane. This is what doctors call superficial growth. 

Once the cells have broken through the basement membrane, it is called an invasive cancer. The cancer will continue to grow towards nearby blood and lymph vessels. In time, some cancer cells may break away from the main tumour and go into the lymph vessels or bloodstream. They can then get stuck in the lymph glands, or another body organ and begin to grow into secondary cancers (metastases). 

The section about cancer has detailed information about how cancers grow and spread.

Rate this page:
Submit rating


Rated 5 out of 5 based on 3 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 17 April 2013