What is metastatic bone disease?

The term “metastasis” means that cancer has spread to a different body part from where it originally started. Metastatic bone disease (MBD) refers to tumors that develop when the cancer cells break away from the original area of growth and move into bone tissue. Metastatic bone disease is considered an advanced form of cancer and is considered a secondary cancer. Secondary cancers within the bones can be difficult to cure but new treatments are being developed to lessen the symptoms of MBD and lengthen patient life. The oncology experts at BICMD diagnose and treat many different types of bone disease including metastatic bone disease. Our best-in-class doctors can offer an expert second opinion during a telemedicine consultation and will suggest the best treatment options available for your specific condition.

What types of cancer can spread to the bones?

Cancer that begins in an organ, such as the lungs, breast, or prostate can spread to the bones and is called MBD or metastatic bone disease. 1.2 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year and approximately half of the new cancers can spread to the bones. Cancers that most commonly metastasize to the bones are:

  • Breast
  • Lung
  • Thyroid
  • Prostate
  • Kidney
  • Colon

Is bone cancer and metastatic bone disease the same thing?

Osteosarcoma (also called osteogenic sarcoma) is bone cancer that begins in the cells that make up the bone. Osteosarcoma is the most common primary bone cancer and occurs most often in young people between the ages of 10 and 30. Metastatic bone disease (MBD) is a tumor or cancer cell that traveled to the bone from somewhere else in the body. MBD is not technically considered bone cancer but is a secondary type of cancer. Read more here about Osteogenic Sarcoma.

What are the symptoms of MBD or metastatic bone disease?

MBD causes pain in the area the cancer cells spread to. Other symptoms may include:

  • Brittle bones that break easily
  • Weakness in the legs or arms
  • High levels of calcium in the blood – may cause confusion and nausea
  • Loss of bowel or urinary control
  • Decreased red blood cell production (Anemia)

Which bones are most likely to have MBD?

The most common areas for bone metastases include:

  • Spine
  • Femur or Tibia (long bones of the leg)
  • Pelvis
  • Ribs
  • Skull
  • Humerus (upper arm bone)

How is metastatic bone disease diagnosed?

If you have been diagnosed with cancer it is important to talk to your doctor about the risk of cancer cells moving to the bones (metastasizing). Diagnostic testing will often include an x-ray to visualize the affected bone. A bone scan or bone density scan will help determine if other bones in the body are involved. CT Scans and MRI Scans can help pinpoint the location of tumors or other bone damage. Blood tests and biopsies are not uncommon to help form an exact diagnosis.

How is MBD, metastatic bone disease treated?

Treatment of MBD often depends on the location, severity and the source tumor cells. Treatments can include surgical and non-surgical therapies.

Radiation – can be highly effective at treating MBD and is the most common therapy used. Radiation kills the cancer cells, stops the tumor from growing and relieves pain. Radiation can prevent the bone from breaking and can even help repair a broken bone. Radiation does have limitations and is not considered “curative.” However, radiation can help lessen the symptoms and, in some cases, destroy the disease in the affected bone.

Medication – Medications can vary, based on the type of cancer, symptoms and where the cancer came from. Medications may include:

  • Bone building medication – Strengthen bones and reduce pain
  • Chemotherapy – Drugs that kill fast-growing cells, such as cancer cells
  • Hormone therapy – Block the hormone producing cancer cells; often used with prostate, testicular, breast and ovarian cancers.
  • IV Radiation – Used for multiple bone metastases; contains a radioactive material that has a strong attraction to bones. It travels to the areas of bone metastasis and releases radiation.
  • Steroids – Relieve pain and helps with complication
  • Pain Medications – Relieve pain caused by MBD

Surgery for MBD –

Surgery for MBD is done as a preventative measure – to decrease the risk of a broken bone. The goal of surgical treatment for metastatic bone disease is to reduce pain, restore bone strength and to help the patient regain the ability to do daily activities.

During this very specialized surgery, a weakened or broken bone is carefully fixed into position and supported with a combination of wires, plates, rods, pins, nails or screws. If a tumor is present, it is removed and bone cement is placed into the defect, giving the bone added strength.

For more information and resources on metastatic bone disease or MBV and the different treatment options available; or if you’ve been diagnosed with MBD and would like an expert 2nd opinion, please contact our orthopedic specialists, by clicking on “Connect With a Doctor.” You will be connected to one of our orthopedic telemedicine experts through our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform.