In healthy humans, there is a balance between bone formation and break-down. This balance is often upset when people develop cancer.
In Germany, almost 300,000 people develop different types of cancer every year. Bone metastasis occurs more frequently in some types of malignant tumours and less commonly in others.
As the cancer progresses, cancer cells often spread to the bones quite early on. What are the causes and risks of bone metastasis?
In metastasis, cancer cells can spread to the bones. Bone metastasis originates from mutated cells of other tissue which have spread to the bones. Their out-of-control growth disturbs the natural balance between bone formation and break-down, and the bones’ function. Most patients with bone metastasis suffer from severe bone pain.
Even after minor accidents such as falls or bumps pathological fractures (bone breaks) can occur. Therefore it is very important that patients are particularly careful.
Generally, bone metastasis is diagnosed with a radiological exam. X-rays are used as initial examination and to check on the progression of the disease.
Other radiological techniques that may be used include:
- Computer tomography
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Bone scan (sceletal scintigraphy)
- Bone scan
A bone scan is a particular type of radiological diagnosis. Small amounts of a radioactively marked substance are injected into a vein. For a short time, the substance accumulates in those bone areas where there is increased activity. Those areas can then be made visible.
A bone-marrow biopsy allows for a precise examination of the bone tissue, mineralisation and the bone cells.
Aim of the treatment is to stabilise the bone, prevent fractures and provide relief for bone pain.
Different therapy methods can be used:
In case of an imminent or actual break the bone needs to be stabilised with an operation.
The cancer cells are destroyed or their growth is inhibited by high-energy x-rays. This type of treatment is particularly indicated if there is evidence of bone metastasis in only a limited region.
This treatment is always used when cancer cells are present throughout the body, including the bones. They are destroyed with the help of medicinal products.
The use of bisphosphonate is a proven method for preventing bone fractures as a result of bone metastasis. These substances accumulate at the bone and counteract bone degeneration caused by bone metastasis.