Metastatic bone cancer treatment seeks to improve quality of life

Metastatic cancer commonly starts as breast, lung, kidney or prostate cancer. An orthopedic oncologist can offer additional relief when cancer moves into the bones.

Metastatic bone disease, or metastatic cancer to the bone, is a secondary bone cancer that originates somewhere else in the body and then spreads to the bones. Metastatic cancer commonly starts as breast, lung, kidney, or prostate cancer.

When cancer cells spread to the bones from other areas, the cancer cells in the bones resemble the cancer cells from the original cancer site. The cancer is treated with the same medications or therapies used to treat the original cancer. However, an orthopedic oncologist can offer additional relief and treatment to patients when cancer spreads into the bones.

Signs and symptoms of metastatic bone cancer

“Fracture is the initial presenting symptom of cancer in some.  I diagnose many new cases of cancer each year in patients admitted through the emergency department with atypical or low energy fractures ,” said George Calvert, M.D., orthopedic oncologist for Norton Cancer Institute, and orthopedic surgeon for Norton Orthopedic Institute.

In addition to bone fractures, Dr. Calvert said bone pain is the most common symptom of metastatic bone disease.  Patients are commonly referred by their medical and radiation oncologists for the evaluation of painful bone lesions.  Surgery is frequesntly performed to alleviate pain and prevent fractures.

The role of an orthopedic oncologist in treating metastatic bone disease

According to Dr. Calvert, secondary bone cancer is much more common than the primary bone cancers known as sarcomas, which originate in the bones.

Consider these statistics from the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society:

Norton Cancer Institute

Learn more about bone cancer types, signs and symptoms of bone cancer, diagnosis and treatment.

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  • More than 300,000 people experience severe limitations to their ability to move around because of metastatic bone disease
  • In some cases, because more patients live longer, the prevalence of metastatic cancer to the bone is nearly 75%
  • Almost 20% of cancer healthcare dollars are spent on events related to the bones
  • A big concern for patients with metastatic bone disease is fear of participating in activities of daily living and spending their time engaged with their loved ones in meaningful ways

Dr. Calvert said treatment for metastatic bone disease involves repairing the affected bone through surgery using metal plates, screws, rods or joint replacement.

“My role as an orthopedic oncologist is to fix or replace the damaged bone,” said Dr. Calvert. “The goal of treatment is to improve the patient’s quality of life so they can spend their time engaged in activities that are important to them.”


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