What Happens With Bone Metastasis?

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When we talk about bone metastases, what we mean is breast cancer that has spread usually through the bloodstream and set up shop in the bone and has basically kind of created a spot in the bone that often you can see on a scan and sometimes for patients, you can feel. They feel bone pain.

In rare instances when it grows quickly or aggressively or has been there for a while, it can even lead to things like fracture. The most common bones that it spreads to are spine, hips, and ribs. So very rarely do we see it like in the bones in the lower extremities, for example, or the bones of the hand.

So bone is one of the most common sites of spread of breast cancer when it spreads outside the breasts and surrounding lymph nodes. And it can often happen shortly after diagnosis, or it can happen years down the line.

The goals of treatment of bony metastases from breast cancer include improving quality of life, so reducing pain, reducing the spread of cancer. So if you can keep it at bay and stop it from spreading to any other bones or worsening, where it already is.

With bone metastases, I would say one of the unique things about that is that they can cause pain. So we do want to make sure that we manage pain optimally whether it's with medication, whether it's with focused radiation to a bone it's affected. And also, that we do things like preventing fracture.

So often we'll co-manage these patients as oncologists, along with radiation oncologists, even orthopedic surgeons, to help make sure that we can control those situations adequately.