Metastatic bone cancer is one of the most common complications of cancer. In fact there are 100,000 people every year who will find out that they have this kind of cancer. Bone metastatic cancer is a kind of cancer that did not necessarily originate from the bone but somewhere else in the body as in the case of breast cancer metastasis to bone and prostate cancer metastasis to bone. The cancer cells traveled to the bones through the lymphatic system or in the bloodstream. When a cancer metastasizes it takes time for it to reproduce and wreak havoc in the bone. That is why this is very had to detect and treat in its early stages. This often catch people by surprise thinking that their cancer is in remission only to find out that a malignant tumor is taking root inside one of their bones.
Cancer metastasis to the bone is common because of the protein called cytokines. These are produced by the bone marrow and it attracts cancer cells. When a cancer is travelling through the bloodstream it zeroes in on these proteins. When these cancer cells start to multiply it will start to grow a tumor and then secure its own blood supply making it well planted into the bone.
Metastatic Bone Cancer Symptoms
Here are some common symptoms of bone cancer metastasis:
- Bone pain – this pain often starts at negligible levels but rapidly increases in a very short amount of time. This is often felt in bones where weight is applied like the hip bones or the upper arm. Although cancerous bone tumors can literally grow in any bone, the symptom of pain is often felt on bones that carry the weight of the body. The pain can get severe in a very short time so if you had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in the past and you have this kind of bone pain it is wise to consult your doctor to eradicate the possibility of a bone metastasis prostate cancer.
- Bone fractures – when the tumor is getting bigger inside the affected bone it will make it weaker. This makes the bones prone to fractures.
- Numbness and difficulty in urination – these symptoms is often caused by the pressure exerted to the spine by a growing malignant tumor. When this symptom is accompanied by bone pain there is a good chance that there is bone cancer metastasis.
- Nausea, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and confusion – these signs are often caused by the flooding of calcium in the bloodstream.
Diagnosis of Bone Cancer Metastasis
To better plan out an intervention for the spreading of the cancer, a diagnosis must be done. Whether there is metastasis from the lungs or metastasis from the breast, the diagnostic process is the same.
- A thorough medical history check is done
- An X-ray is often the most basic diagnostic imaging test that a doctor can get the cancer patient start on. This will help the doctor see tumors, possibly identifying it if it is malignant or benign. X-rays can also be handy in seeing fractures which can be brought in by cancerous tumor growth in the bone.
- Other more detailed imaging tests can be given to a patient like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computer Tomography (CT) Scan, or Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan. These can provide for a better picture of the cancer, where the tumor is, and its size. PET scans and MRI are very applicable in diagnosing metastatic breast cancer to the bone as this can detect cancer in soft tissues like muscles and fats.
- To better identify the nature of the tumor a bone biopsy can be done by either inserting a needle to get a tissue sample or making a small incision to get to the tumor for sampling. Under a microscope a pathologist can better determine if the tumor is indeed cancerous or not.
Metastatic Bone Cancer Treatment
Breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer are the most common cancers that metastasize to the bones. Each of these cancers may adopt the breast cancer bone metastasis treatment path to neutralize the tumor knowing that all of it similarly metastasized in the bones. This is where a sound diagnosis can make a difference. The breast cancer metastasis to bone survival rate is seen to be at 24-36 months. The metastatic bone cancer prognosis is not that good simply because bone cancer metastasis happens in the last stages of the underlying cancer.
- The first step is to address the underlying cancer. By doing this, treating the metastasized cancer can be easier. The drugs used for addressing the primary cancer can also be used on the secondary cancer which is in this case, located in the bone. The location of the tumor, its aggressiveness, and many other factors will determine the exact treatment approach.
- Biophosphonates – drugs like Zometa and Aredia helps in keeping the bone strong so that fractures and pain can be addressed. These drugs are administered intravenously once every month to also stop the rapid progression of the metastatic cancer. These medications can improve the metastatic bone cancer life expectancy and quality of life of patients.
- Xgeva – This drug is injected directly under the skin and should help prevent the bones from breaking down. These are a bit pricey though. Last stage breast cancer bone metastasis can largely benefit from this medication.
- Vertebroplasty – this is a procedure that injects bone cement to fractured bones or vertebra in the back. This can dramatically relieve back pain.
Radiation – focusing X-rays to the affected bone can help address the pain and stabilize the bone. This is often done with surgery, with the operation directed at inserting pins to strengthen the bones and address the pain. Radiation therapy can go on for 10 sessions. This can definitely make patients suffering from bone metastatic cancer feel better.