Like other types of cancer, breast cancer can also metastasize alias spread to other body parts, such as the lungs, liver, brain, or bone.
Metastatic breast cancer is also called stage 4 breast cancer. Nearly 5 percent of women with breast cancer already have metastatic breast cancer when newly diagnosed. These cancers generally appear several months or years after the initial diagnosis. The risk of breast spread to the bone becomes higher after breast cancer spreads to other body parts.
What happens when breast cancer spreads to the bone?
Normally, the bones that make up the skeletal body will always change. Old bone will be broken and replaced with new bone so that our bones remain healthy and strong.
Another case in cancer patients, cancer cells that spread to the bone can cause some parts of the bone structure to break without forming new bone. This makes the bones tend to be weak and prone to fractures.
Cancer can also cause new bones to grow even though old bones have not been damaged. It makes bones harder, but their abnormal structure makes bones at risk of fracture.
What are the symptoms if breast cancer has spread to the bone?
Bone pain is usually the first symptom of breast cancer that has spread to your bones. Bones can become weak and break easily. Cancer that grows in the spine can cause pressure on the spinal cord so it can disrupt the function of the intestine and bladder. In severe cases, tumors in certain areas of the spine may also cause paralysis.
Other symptoms can be found in your blood. Cancer can cause the bone to release calcium into the bloodstream in an amount higher than normal levels (hypercalcemia). It is characterized by the appearance of nausea, loss of appetite, thirst, and constipation. You will be easily drowsy and even dazed. Hypercalcaemia may cause coma if not treated promptly.
If you have breast cancer and bone pain, doctors usually recommend imaging tests, including X-rays or bone scans (scintigraphy). Other imaging tests that may be recommended are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized cosmography (CT), or positron emission tomography (PET). This test will help diagnosis and removal of the tumor.
Can breast cancer be treated if it has spread to the bone?
Many primary breast cancer treatments can be used to treat metastasis to bone. The treatment aims to stop the spread of the tumor, and shrink or remove the existing tumor. The treatment given depends on the type of breast cancer when the cancer condition has spread to the bone.
If you have any type of breast cancer that requires hormonal therapy, you may be advised to continue. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that can effectively kill breast cancer cells throughout your body. This treatment can be given intravenously or in pill form.
Alternatively, you can also undergo radiation therapy that specifically targets breast cancer cells. This therapy can shrink tumors, strengthen bones, and reduce pain.
In addition, your doctor may prescribe some bone boosting drugs. Some drugs are given intravenously, and the rest is taken straight away. Metal bars can also be planted through surgery to support weak bones. In addition to metal bars, bone can also be stabilized with metal plates, screws, or cement.
Different types of treatment are usually combined for best results. The treatment plan will be tailored to the body’s response to the treatment.
In addition to treating breast cancer, doctors can prescribe medications to help control pain, discomfort, and reduce fatigue. Physical therapy can strengthen bones, reduce pain, and help you move more efficiently. Using a walking stick or walker can reduce the pressure on the weak bones.
Researchers are always looking for new methods to treat metastatic breast cancer. One way to test new therapies is through clinical trials. Not just anyone can undergo new therapy. Therefore, oncology will tell you about the right clinical treatment options.