Bone metastasis



What is bone metastasis?

Bone metastasis occurs when cancer cells spread from their original site to a bone. Bone metastases do not begin from the bones but move there from the primary tumor site. On the other hand, primary bone cancers are rare cancers where the primary tumor actually starts in the bone. Therefore, bone cancer and bone metastases are not the same.

Nearly all types of cancer can spread (metastasize) to the bones. But some types of cancer are particularly likely to spread to bone, including breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Bone metastasis can occur in any bone but more commonly occurs in the spine, pelvis and thigh. Bone metastasis may be the first sign that you have cancer, or bone metastasis may occur years after cancer treatment

How common is bone metastasis?

Bone metastases are common among cancer patients. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of bone metastasis?

Sometimes, bone metastasis causes no signs and symptoms.

When it does occur, signs and symptoms of bone metastasis include:

  • Bone pain
  • Broken bones
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, extreme thirst, and other symptoms from excess calcium in the blood; as bone becomes destroyed by the metastatic tumor, the bone releases calcium into the bloodstream.
  • Compression of the spinal cord if cancer in a bone of the spine grows and puts pressure on the spinal cord; this can cause nerve symptoms of numbness, weakness, urinary problems, and paralysis.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you or your loved one has any signs or symptoms listed above or you have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

If you’ve been treated for cancer in the past, tell your doctor about your medical history and that you’re concerned about your signs and symptoms.


What causes bone metastasis?

Bone metastasis occurs when cancer cells break away from the original tumor and spread to the bones, where they begin to multiply.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes some cancers to spread. And it’s not clear why some cancers travel to the bones rather than to other common sites for metastasis, such as the liver.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for bone metastasis?

Virtually any type of cancer can spread to the bones, but the cancers most likely to cause bone metastasis include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is bone metastasis diagnosed?

Imaging tests are used to investigate signs and symptoms that may indicate bone metastasis. Which tests you undergo depends on your specific situation.

Tests may include:

  • X-ray
  • Bone scan (bone scintigraphy)
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)

How is bone metastasis treated?

Most bone metastasis cannot be cured. But treatment can often help relieve symptoms.

The kind of treatment your doctor recommends depends, in part, on what kind of primary cancer you have. Other factors include:

  • Which bones the cancer has invaded
  • Damage to the bones
  • Which treatments you have already had
  • Your state of health

In most cases, doctors treat bone metastasis by treating the primary cancer. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy are examples of treatments commonly used to treat the primary cancer. These are systemic treatments, so they can travel through the bloodstream to reach different parts of the body.

These treatments for the bone can help relieve bone metastasis pain and other symptoms:

Radiation therapy. High-energy X-rays can kill cancer cells or slow their growth. Alone or combined with other treatments, this can relieve symptoms of bone mets.

Radiopharmaceuticals. Used only for cancer that spreads to bone, these are drugs with radioactive elements. When they are injected, they go to the bone with cancer, killing cancer cells and helping to relieve pain. Low blood counts can be a side effect of this type of therapy.

Ablation. In this method, a needle is put directly into a tumor to destroy it with heat, cold, electric current, or alcohol.

MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound. This is a noninvasive procedure that uses ultrasound energy guided by MRI scanning to destroy nerve endings in the area of the tumor. The procedure is used to relieve pain in people who have not had success with radiation or who are unable to be treated with radiation.

Bisphosphonates (Aredia and Zometa). Given intravenously (IV) for bone mets, these drugs can reduce damage to the bone, lower the risk of breaks, reduce high blood calcium levels, and lessen pain.

Denosumab (Xgeva). Similar to bisphosphonates, this drug is injected to help keep bone from breaking down.

Surgery. If bone damage is severe, inserting a supportive rod may be a good option. Other types of surgery may relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

Injections of bone cement. These can also strengthen bones to prevent breaks.

Your options for treatment of bone mets may vary depending on your type of cancer, your condition, and tolerance of possible side effects.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage bone metastasis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with bone metastasis:

  • Find out enough about bone metastasis to make decisions about your care. Ask your doctor about the details of your cancer and your treatment options. Ask about trusted sources of further information.
  • Find someone to talk with. Although friends and family can be your best allies, in some cases they may have difficulty coping with the shock of your diagnosis. In these cases, talking with a counselor, medical social worker, or a pastoral or religious counselor can be helpful. Ask your doctor for a referral.
  • Connect with other cancer survivors. You may find comfort in talking with other cancer survivors. Cancer survivors can provide unique insight into your situation.
  • Come to terms with your illness. Coming to terms with the fact that your cancer may no longer be curable can be difficult. For some people, having a strong faith or a sense of something greater than themselves makes this process easier.
    Others seek counseling from someone who understands life-threatening illnesses, such as a medical social worker, psychologist or chaplain. Many people also take steps to ensure that their end-of-life wishes are known and respected by writing down their wishes and discussing them with their loved ones.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: March 8, 2018 | Last Modified: March 8, 2018

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