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Bone metastases - or bone "mets" - occur when cancer travels to the bone. It can have a big impact on your day-to-day life. Bone metastases can weaken bones, putting your body at risk for fractures and other problems. Fortunately, some simple changes at home, plus treatment and a healthy lifestyle, can reduce these risks. Here's what you need to know.

4 Small Changes to Protect Your Bones at Home

How to Protect Your Bones With Medicine

As careful as you may be, you need medical treatment to help prevent fractures and other bone problems when you have bone metastases. First, your doctor will treat your primary cancer, the one that spread to your bones. Your doctor may also suggest starting bisphosphonate therapy as soon as possible to reduce the effects of bone metastasis on your body. In addition to preventing the breakdown of bone, these drugs often help with pain relief.

Bisphosphonates such as pamidronate ( Aredia) and zoledronic acid ( Zometa) slow the damage to bone and reduce the risk of fracture. You receive them by intravenous (IV) infusion every three to four weeks.

If the bisphosphonates don't help or stop working, your doctor may prescribe denosumab (Xgeva). This is a new monoclonal antibody that interferes with cancer's ability to break down bone. You receive it by injection under the skin every four weeks.

How to Protect Your Bones With Procedures

Your doctor may recommend radiation to kill cancer cells in the bones. This can be done with external beam radiation, which focuses on one section of bone, or with radiopharmaceuticals, which are given by injection and release radiation to many different areas of bone.

Another procedure called cryoablation uses extreme cold to kill cancer cells. Your doctor might also recommend a noninvasive procedure that uses MRI scanning to focus ultrasound energy in order to destroy nerve endings around the tumor and provide relief from pain.

If bone metastasis has already caused collapsed vertebrae in your spine, specialists can do a vertebroplasty to fill the space with bone cement and relieve pressure. Similarly, if a bone has broken and is causing pain, a surgeon can insert a device such as a screw, a rod, or a plate to stabilize the bone.

Pain, in general, usually accompanies bone metastases. Doctors have found that Focused Ultrasound (FUS) can be effective in treating palliation of pain resulting from bone mets.

Treatment and lifestyle changes cannot cure bone mets. But they can be very effective at reducing your risk of bone fractures and greatly enhancing the quality of your life.

How Cancer Spreads to Bones

See what bone metastasis does to your bones, and how to fight back.
View slideshow