Understanding Metastatic Bone Disease

Cancer is always a frightening diagnosis, and knowing that the disease can spread from one part of the body to others can be unsettling. Metastasis occurs when cancer cells from the original (primary) tumor break away and move to other parts of the body. When the cancer spreads from the primary tumor into bone tissue, it is known as bone metastasis. 


Bone metastasis is different from cancer that begins in a bone. Cancers that start off in bone tissue are composed of bone cells, whereas cancer that has metastasized to the bone is made of abnormal cells from the primary tumor site. For example, if lung cancer metastasizes to the bones, the resulting tumor in the bone tissue would be made of abnormal lung cells.


While it is possible for any primary cancer to spread to bone, it is more common for certain types of cancer to spread there than others. The cancers that are most likely to metastasize to the bones are those originating in the breasts, kidneys, lungs, bladder, prostate, and thyroid. The bones that are most commonly affected are the upper arm and upper leg bones, the pelvis, rib cage, spine, and skull.


When cancer does spread to bone tissue, the most common symptom is pain. It may not be constant or severe at first, and it could occur mainly at night or while resting. Over time, however, it can become consistently severe. Not all bone pain is the result of cancer though, so it is important to have it evaluated by your healthcare provider.


Many times, a fracture is the first sign of bone metastasis. This happens because cancer weakens the bone. Bone metastasis can eat away at the bone, resulting in holes, called lytic lesions, that make the bone more fragile and weak. Certain types of cancers can also cause the bone to change hot it grows, resulting in thicker, but weaker bone called sclerotic lesions. Either of these two types of lesions can cause pain and fractures as well.


Central Florida Orthopedic has a variety of options available to treat bone cancer, including medication, radiation and surgery. Bone cancer is rarely curable, but treatment can prevent the bone from breaking, allow the patient to walk without pain and assist in the control of the original tumor. 

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