Overview of bone metastasis
A cancer that begins anywhere in the body and goes on to affect the bones is called Bone metastases or metastatic bone disease (MBD). Bone metastases generally form a solid mass inside the bone and causes severe pain, with chronic aches and sporadic intense pain.
Signs of bone metastasis include:
- Bone pain
- Broken bones
- Involuntary urination
- Involuntary defecation
- Weakness in the legs
- High levels of calcium in the blood
Causes of bone metastasis
It is unclear why cancer cells attack the bone and prefer to lodge itself in it. Bone metastases is not a disease in itself and is caused when cancer cells from primary source breaks, travels through the bloodstream and causes new tumors in the bones.
The risk of having bone metastases only start when you have any type of cancer. Researchers are still unsure about why some people with cancer have bone metastases and some do not. However, it can be told that certain type of cancer like breast, prostate, lung, thyroid, and kidney are more likely to spread to bones than others.
To start diagnosis a doctor would generally like to go through the medical history of the patient. This would include the symptoms, track record of illnesses in the past and current health conditions. On satisfying himself, a doctor may ask a patient to undergo the following tests:
An X – ray can clearly depict the status of bones and provides a good picture on the conditions of bones. An x-ray will help the doctor determine the stage of the disease and the affect it has had on the bone.
Similarly other imaging tests like computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance image (MRI) are helpful in diagnosing bone metastases and the bone or bones involved in the disease.
Treatment for bone metastases can be both non-surgical and surgical. Nor-surgical methods will include:
Chemotherapy or chemo as it is commonly known as, relies on chemicals being introduced in the body to kill the cancer cells. Chemo can be injected, swallowed orally to treat cases of bone metastases. Chemo is one of the main stay of cancer treatment and is known to be effective but cause considerable side effects. It is often used together with other methods of treatment to get better results.
Endocrine therapy is mostly used to treat breast cancer and hence is effective when bone metastasis is cause due to breast cancer cells. Endocrine therapy is prescribed differently for women, depending on whether they are premenopausal or postmenopausal but is known to alter the properties of hormones in the body. In endocrine therapy the hormones are altered in such a way that it starts destroying cells in the body.
This is a class of drug which limits the damage to the bones by the cancer cells. These drugs help prevent fractures, limit pain and primarily slow down the damage caused by the cancer cells. These drugs, however, have some side effects like nausea and vomiting.
Surgical procedures are often used to fix a broken bone or to prevent it from snapping and also involved removing the cancerous tumor. Different types of surgery include one that stabilizes the bone using metal plates, screws and nails (orthopedic fixation).
The best way to prevent bone metastases from happening is to prevent a primary case of cancer from developing and detecting cases of cancer early.
Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: August 14, 2013