Overview

Bone metastasis occurs when cancer cells spread from their original site to a bone.

Nearly all types of cancer can spread (metastasize) to the bones. But some types of cancer are particularly likely to spread to bone, including breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Bone metastasis can occur in any bone but more commonly occurs in the spine, pelvis and thigh. Bone metastasis may be the first sign that you have cancer, or bone metastasis may occur years after cancer treatment.

Bone metastasis can cause pain and broken bones. With rare exceptions, cancer that has spread to the bones can't be cured. Treatments can help reduce pain and other symptoms of bone metastases.

Symptoms

Sometimes, bone metastasis causes no signs and symptoms.

When it does occur, signs and symptoms of bone metastasis include:

  • Bone pain
  • Broken bones
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Weakness in the legs or arms
  • High levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation and confusion

When to see a doctor

If you experience persistent signs and symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with your doctor.

If you've been treated for cancer in the past, tell your doctor about your medical history and that you're concerned about your signs and symptoms.

Causes

Bone metastasis occurs when cancer cells break away from the original tumor and spread to the bones, where they begin to multiply.

Doctors aren't sure what causes some cancers to spread. And it's not clear why some cancers travel to the bones rather than to other common sites for metastasis, such as the liver.

Risk factors

Virtually any type of cancer can spread to the bones, but the cancers most likely to cause bone metastasis include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
April 10, 2015
References
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