Approximately one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer. Fortunately, death rates from breast cancer are currently on the decline, due to improved recognition, prevention, and treatment. It is important, however, for women to recognize not only the primary complications of breast cancer but also the possibility of secondary complications, such as tumor metastases.
Metastases refers to cancer that has left the primary tumor and spread to other regions of the body. The bones are a common place for cancer to travel and spread. Symptoms of bone metastases can include bone pain and fractures. The pain tends to worsen at night and improves with movement. Anemia is another possible complication of bone metastases, since bone marrow produces red blood cells.
High blood calcium levels or high levels of alkaline phosphatase can indicate to physicians that bone metastases has occurred. To diagnose the condition, doctors can also take images of the bones, using X-rays or other types of scanning such as MRI, CAT, or PET. A physician may also have a bone biopsy performed to confirm the diagnosis.
There are several treatments for bone metastases. Treatments can include radiation therapy, surgery, or chemotherapy. Hormone and immune therapies are additional possibilities. They may be local treatments or could treat the entire body (systemic). The treatments tend to be chosen based upon how much cancer has spread, whether bones are weak or broken, and the woman’s general health. Treatments can reduce bone pain and improve activity levels. Treatments may be repeated when symptoms, such as pain, return.
Women with breast cancer should consider the possibility of bone metastases and speak with their physician about any possible symptoms. Pain, especially in the legs, arms, and back, should be brought to a doctor’s attention. Pain without activity is of particular concern. Fractures from minor injuries are additional warning signs.
Breast cancer, especially, is more likely to spread to the bones than other types of cancer. It is also important to note that bone metastases can happen years after treatment of the primary breast cancer, so monitoring any bone symptoms and having a doctor evaluate them is critical for promoting early treatment. Unfortunately, this type of cancer is not typically curable. Treatment can shrink bone metastasis and stop its growth. This can greatly improve quality of life, reduce symptoms such as pain and fractures, and extend a patient’s lifespan.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.