- What is metastasis?
- What are the key statistics about bone metastases?
- What are the risk factors for bone metastases?
- Do we know why cancers metastasize to bones?
- Can bone metastases be prevented?
- Signs and symptoms of bone metastases
- How are bone metastases diagnosed?
- How are bone metastases treated?
- Systemic treatments for bone metastases
- Local treatments for bone metastases
- Pain medicines for bone metastases
- Clinical trials for bone metastases
- Complementary and alternative therapies for bone metastases
- Treating problems caused by bone metastases
- More treatment information about bone metastases
- What should you ask your doctor about bone metastases?
- Other things to consider
- Additional resources for bone metastases
- References: Bone Metastases
How are bone metastases treated?
General treatment information
Treatment options for people with bone metastases depend on many things:
- What kind of cancer you have
- Which bones (and how many) the cancer has spread to
- Whether any bones have been weakened or broken
- Which treatments you have already had
- Your symptoms
- Your general state of health
Other factors may also be considered, such as features of the cancer cells (for instance, in the case of breast cancer whether they contain estrogen receptors).
Treatments can often shrink or slow the growth of bone metastases and can help with any symptoms they are causing. But they often do not make the metastases go away completely.
There are 2 main types of treatment for bone metastases. Depending on the extent and location of the cancer, one or both of these types of treatment may be used.
Systemic treatments can affect the whole body. In many cases, especially if the cancer has spread to many bones, systemic treatments are used because they can reach cancer cells that have spread throughout the body. Systemic therapies include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or other medicines that are taken by mouth or injected into the blood.
Local treatments are directed at a single area. These treatments can be useful if the cancer has spread to only one bone, or if there is one or a few areas of cancer spread that are more advanced than others and need to be treated right away.
Local treatments include external radiation therapy, surgery, and related techniques. These treatments can help relieve pain or other symptoms caused by one or a few bone metastases. Sometimes, local treatments such as surgery are used to stabilize a bone that’s in danger of breaking because it has been weakened by cancer. It’s much easier to keep a damaged bone from breaking than to try and fix it after it has broken.
Last Medical Review: 02/07/2014
Last Revised: 02/17/2014