When Cancer Spreads to the Bone
Up to 70% of women who have advanced metastatic breast cancer will develop bone mets
Up to 70% of men with advanced metastatic prostate cancer will also develop bone mets
WHAT ARE BONE METS?
Short for bone metastases (pronounced meh-TASS-tah-seez), bone mets occur when cancer spreads from the original tumor, which can be anywhere in the body, to the bone.1
HOW DOES CANCER SPREAD TO THE BONE?1
Cancer cells sometimes break away from the tumor they are part of, and they usually just die. Some, however, travel through the blood stream to settle in another part of the body where they begin growing. Bones are one of the more common places for these cancer cells to settle, where they form bone mets. Cancer cells can also travel through the lymph system, which is a network of narrow tubes that run throughout the body that removes toxins and waste. Cancer cells can use either the blood or lymph system to travel.
ARE BONE METS THE SAME AS BONE CANCER?
No. Bone cancers start in the bone like breast cancer begins in the breast or prostate cancer starts in the prostate. A patient could have breast cancer or prostate cancer that spreads, or metastasizes to the bone, causing bone mets, not a primary bone cancer. Bone metastasis is much more common than primary bone cancers.1
ARE SOME BONES MORE LIKELY THAN OTHERS TO GET BONE METS?1
Yes. Bony metastases are most often found in bones near the center of the body. The spine is the most common site. Other common sites are the hip bone (pelvis), upper leg bone (femur), upper arm bone (humerus), ribs, and the skull.
ARE SOME CANCERS MORE LIKELY TO CAUSE BONE METS THAN OTHERS?
Yes. It has been estimated that up to 70% of women who have advanced metastatic breast cancer will develop bone mets.2
BONE METS AND PROSTATE CANCER
It has been estimated that up to 70% of men with advanced metastatic prostate cancer will also develop bone mets.2
BONE METS AND OTHER CANCERS
Lung, thyroid, and bladder cancers are also frequent causes of bone mets.2
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF BONE METS? 3,4
Bone pain is often the first symptom of cancer that has spread to the bone. The pain may come and go at first, but later on, it can become constant. Bone met pain has been described in various ways. For some, bone pain is a dull ache that is always present; for others, it is sharp and intermittent. Yet for others, the pain feels more like a bruise. Other symptoms include fractures that cause sudden, severe pain, spinal cord compression, and increased levels of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia).
- Understanding Advanced Cancer, Metastatic Cancer, and Bone Metastasis. American Cancer Society Website. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/understanding-your-diagnosis/advanced-cancer/what-is.html. Revised: December 15, 2016. Accessed March 27, 2018.
- Macedo F, Ladeira K, Pinho F, Saraiva N, Bonito N, Pinto L, Goncalves F. Bone Metastases: An Overview. Oncol Rev. 2017;11(1):321.
- Finding Bone Metastases. American Cancer Society Website. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/understanding-your-diagnosis/advanced-cancer/finding-bone-metastases.html. Revised: December 15, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2018.
- Bone METS. Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. http://www.mbcn.org/bone-mets/. Accessed March 28, 2018.