BALTIMORE, Md. (WUSA)--- For women who have faced breast cancer, news the disease has come back or is spreading brings undescribable anxiety.
Judy Carter has been a survivor for almost twenty years. However, she says that not a day goes by when she doesn't think of the journey and what would happen if her cancer returned.
Judy explains, "As you get closer to your appointment with your doctor, you become very tense and it's very stressful."
It's something, Judy says, "you never stop think about".
Now, at the University of Maryland Medical Center, fresh insight into how cancer metastasizes to distant parts of the body.
Leading researcher Stuart Martin, PhD heads up the team that discovered something called a microtentacle, described as a mini-octopus.
Dr. Martin says the microtentacle hides in the center of the cell until the cell becomes powerful enough to break free and begins to move.
Dr. Martin explains,"Microtentacles turn out to be an extension of a tumor cell that occurs specifically when the cell is detached, like it would be when traveling through the blood streatm."
Scientists say those microtentacles can help cells reattach to the walls of small blood vessels and create new pockets of cancer.
The Maryland researchers hope to develop new drugs to slow the progress and power of that spread.
Ultimately Dr. Martin says this will require, "...trying to develop compounds that will reduce how well these tumor cells spread through the blood and give us the opportunity to destroy these cells as they're spreading."
That kind of discovery, Judy Carter says, would bring many people touched by breast cancer a lot of hope.
"It's a special union and everyone needs to fight together. Anything they can find like that is very hopeful."