Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease is a deadly disease that can happen to a person when one suffers from spreading of cancer cells from their original affected area to bones.

Although all cancers have the ability to reach to the bones but the ones that have the most tendency are prostate and breast cancer.

Though there is no defined place where bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease occurs, it's most common areas of effect are thigh, spine, or the pelvis bone. This kind of cancer is the primary sign to a person suffering from cancer. Another point to be noted here is that occurrence of bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease is possible years after one has been treated.

Bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease is a painful disease as in this the patient experiences great pain in bones and often breakage of bones. There are some exceptions but these bones are not curable. The treatments to the patients suffering from it give them reduction in pain and other symptoms noticeable in this disease.

Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

Symptoms of Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

There are chances that no symptoms or signs of bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease are noticed at all but when it is they could be as following:

  • Pain in bones
  • Breakage of bones
  • Urinary problems
  • Bowel movement problems
  • Weakness, especially in legs and arms
  • Increased levels of calcium in blood causing nausea, constipation.

The Causes of Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

When it is observed that the cancer cells spread from their original affected area and enter the bones and thereby begin to increase, it could indicate towards bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease.

The reason for why the cancer cells would spread to the bones is still unknown to the doctors. It is also unknown why cancer cells would choose not to spread to sites of metastasis such as liver but to bones.

Risk Factors for Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

It is possible that any type of cancer spreads to the bones but the ones that have the highest chances of causing bone metastasis or metastatic bone diseaseare:

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

Tests to Diagnose Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

Once the signs and symptoms of bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease are experienced or observed, certain imaging tests are conducted in order to confirm or diagnose bone metastasis. The tests that may be done upon the patient are:

  • PET or Positron Emission Tomography
  • X-Ray
  • Bone Scanning
  • CT or Computerized Tomography
  • MRI.

Treatment for Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

There are certain medications that are prescribed to the patient suffering from bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease to cure it. Alternatively, radiation therapy or surgery too could be the possible treatment carried out for the patient. The treatment that is best for the patient depends on a lot of factors and differs from patient to patient.

Medications Given out to the Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease Patient

There are many various kinds of medications given out to the patient suffering from bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease. They are:

Medications to Build Bones for Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

People who suffer from osteoporosis or thinning of the bones are given certain medicines that could also be helpful for the patients of bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease. They are helpful in making the bones stronger this preventing them from breakage and the sharp pain experienced by the patients. These medicines are also helpful in further spreading of bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease into new bones of the body of the patient. The administration of such medicines can be conducted through a vein in arm or through the use of injections. The oral forms of such medications are less effective than IV forms and are likely to cause harm to the digestive track of the patient.

Kidney problems and pain in bones are likely to be experienced by the patients due to these medications. There is also a possibility of deterioration of deformation of the jaw bone.

Chemotherapy for Treating Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

Chemotherapy is advised by the doctor when the cancer cells spread to many bones of the body. Chemotherapy then fights the cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy is both taken through pill or vein. The side effects of chemotherapy depend from medication to medication and may not be applicable to one and all. Chemotherapy is best suited to kill the pain caused by bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease.

Hormone Therapy for Treating Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

An option of suppressing certain cancer sensitive hormones is another course of treatment for the patients. These cancers that are most affected by hormones are the breast and prostate cancer.

Through both oral medications and naturally blocking the hormones treatment of patients is done. Another option that is often considered by the doctors is the complete removal of the organs that produce those hormones. In females, they could be reproduction organs such as ovaries and in men they are testes.

Pain Medicines for Treating Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

The pain medications are believed to control the exorbitant pain caused by the bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease. Ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin IB etc. or stronger ones such as Avinza, MS contin etc. could be prescribed to the patient.

It is also observed that determining which the best pain-killer is may take time and depends from person to person. A specialist in relieving pain may take the case and advise further options and ways to kill the pain.

Steroids for Treating Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

To decrease the swelling and pain of the bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease can also be reduced with the help of certain medications which are called steroids, though these steroids must not be confused with the steroids taken by people involved in body building.

These steroids are helpful in not only getting rid of the pain but also avoiding further complications caused by cancer. It should also be noted that longer usage of these steroids can cause some harmful effects too.

Targeted Therapy for Treating Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

In many kinds of cancers, targeted therapy, a new kind of medication is also used to attack the abnormalities caused in the cancer cells.

Some forms of cancers react well and start working on treatment of the cancer. These are breast cancer which reacts well to Herceptin therapy.

External Radiation Therapy for Treating Bone Metastasis

External radiation therapy for bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease basically involves exposing the cancer cells to high power energy rays namely, X-Rays. This treatment is primarily effective when the pain becomes uncontrollable and the affected areas are small.

The treatment could be in installments or one large amount of dosage could be given out to the patient. The side effects of this form of treatment depend on various factors such as the size of the affected area and sort of the affected area.

Surgery for Treating Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

Surgery is mainly helpful in repairing breaking bones or stability of a bone at the verge of breakage for bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease.

  • For stabilizing bone breakage: Due to the severe effect of the bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease sometimes the bone is endangered to further corrosion, weakening and breakage. Stability is the provided to such bones through screws, nails and plates made of metal. This treatment stabilizes functioning of the affected area and healing is also done through radiation therapy.
  • Injecting bones with cement: This kind of surgery is done where metal plated, nuts and screws cannot be fixed. The spine and pelvic bones are examples of such areas. The bones are thus injected with bone cement to strengthen the bone and reduce the damage occurred to the affected bones. This process is also helpful in reduction of pain.
  • Repairing broken bones through surgery: If there is breakage of bones due to bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease surgery is performed to repair those broken bones. Again usage of plates made of metal and nails and screws is done during the surgery.

Sometimes the whole bone is replaced for instance hip replacement is the perfect example of this.

Heating and Freezing Cancer Cells for Treating Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

In order to control pain caused by bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease sometimes heating and freezing of cancer cells is done. This is done when any other treatment fails to work on the patient.

During this procedure a needle with electric probe is made to enter the bone tumor and heating is provided by passing electricity through it and then it is left alone to be cooled down. The process is then repeated.

Another kind of procedure known as cryoablation is the process to freeze tumor and then lets it thaw on its own. This process is also repeated several times.

The risk involved in this process is further breakage of the nearby bones and damage to the nearby nerves.

Intravenous Radiation for Treating Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

Intravenous radiation can help in treating bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease. Some patients develop bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease in many parts and for such patients radio pharmaceuticals are given through a vein. Low leveled radioactive material is used so that its particles are allowed to travel through the affected areas of the bones and the radiations are released there.

This is a very helpful way of controlling the pain caused by the disease. The side effects that are involved in this procedure are damage to the bone marrow and low blood cell count.

Physical Therapy (PT) for Treating Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

Sometimes physical therapy (PT) is also used to stabilize the affected area and help ease the mobility and functioning of the bone. Many assistive plans are devised by the therapist in order to help the patient deal with the problems caused by bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease.

Cane for the improvement in balancing, crutches for effective walking, stabilizing spine through braces are some of the options therapist use to help the patient.

Coping With Bone Metastasis or Metastatic Bone Disease

The most important way to cope with the pain and problems and discomforts of bone metastasis or metastatic bone disease is to be able to come to terms with the fact that cancer has spread to other areas. You may want to:

  • Find out more about the disease and consult with your doctor on how to take good care of yourself. Discussing further treatments and doing research on the same.
  • Finding someone to discuss your problem with is also a great way to cope up with the disease. Talking about it with the family and friends can help the patient calm down. Alternatively talking it out with a counselor could be beneficial too.
  • Communicating with the cancer survivors is great confidence booster. It helps the patient get to know more about ways to deal with it and is a great motivator too.
  • Dealing with the illness involved with the first step that is to come to terms with the fact that the cancer cells have indeed spread further into the bones. Having faith in the doctor, in your own self and in the recovery procedure also helps in coping up with illness.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: October 6, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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