Bone Metastasis

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Understanding Bone Metastasis

There are many ways to relieve pain caused by bone metastasis. Some treatments are directed at the cancer cells to kill them, slow their growth, or reduce bone damage. Still, these treatments may not relieve the pain right away or stop it completely.

If your treatment does not relieve your pain, tell your doctor or nurse right away. Don't be afraid to use pain medicines or other treatments, including complementary therapies, to help with your pain. Getting effective pain relief will help you feel better. It will make it easier for you to focus on the things that make you happy and that are important in your life.

Medicine taken by mouth is the most common way to treat pain. Often 2 or more drugs are used together. Your doctor may start with drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (Motrin®). These drugs can be very helpful in treating bone pain. If these aren't helping, you probably will be given an opioid (a pain medicine related to morphine). Commonly used opioids include codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, or oxycodone. Codeine and hydrocodone are considered "mild" opioids, while morphine and oxycodone are stronger. Opioids are considered the best drugs for helping cancer patients control their pain. Sometimes an opioid is combined with acetaminophen or an NSAID in a single pill or capsule.

You may worry about becoming addicted to opioids, but this is almost never a problem if the drug is being used as directed to treat cancer pain. Symptoms such as drowsiness and constipation are likely but can usually be treated by changing the dose or by adding other medicines, if needed. Drowsiness usually gets better with time, and being free of pain can help you focus on what is most important to you. These are just some of the reasons you shouldn't hesitate to ask for pain medicines.

If you are in pain and have been given prescription pain medicines, you should take them on a regular schedule as directed. It is often easier to prevent the pain than to treat it once it starts. Keep your cancer team informed about how the medicines are working, and whether you can get around and take care of yourself. If the medicines are not working, your cancer team may need to try other ways to control your pain. For more information on managing pain, please see our document, Pain Control: A Guide for Those With Cancer and Their Loved Ones.

Last Medical Review: 05/03/2012
Last Revised: 05/03/2012