Breast Cancer Bone Metastases

About 70 percent of women with advanced breast cancer will develop bone metastases—which means their cancer has spread to the bone. The cancer cells travel through the blood stream to bone where they grow and multiply; eventually causing thinning of the bone in that area, bone pain and in some cases a broken or fractured bone. An x-ray is used to determine where the cancer has spread.


Treatment depends on where and how wide the cancer has spread. If x-rays show that cancer exists in only one location, radiation therapy may be the only treatment needed at that time. If cancer cells show up in several parts of the skeleton, hormonal or chemotherapy might be the best approach. Radioactive drugs or bisphosphonate drugs may also be effective. The latter has been shown in studies to reduce pain, skeletal complications and elevated calcium in the blood. If the bone has thinned to the point that a fracture is likely, an orthopedic procedure may be necessary to support a bone and prevent a break.