Pain is not a factor that is normally associated with early stages of breast cancer. The absence of pain makes performing a monthly breast self-exam that much more important in order to facilitate the earliest possible detection. However, patients whose breast cancer has spread to the bone may be treated with bone strengthening drugs called bisphosphonates. This treatment alleviates some of the pain while helping to prevent fractures and it prevents the excessive absorption of bone which can give rise to something called hypercalcemia. This occurs when theres so much calcium that has leached out of the bone into the bloodstream it is actually bad for the patient.
In solid tumors such as breast cancer there is the chance that the cancer will become advanced and spread to the bone. In advanced breast cancer metastasis to the bone occurs in 65-75% of patients. While this can be frightening it may help you to understand how bone metastasis damages bones as well as diagnosis procedures and treatment.
Bone metastases wear away portions of bone leaving small holes called osteolytic bone lesions. This wearing away process causes eroded bone to appear as circular punched-out areas. It leaves bones weak and fragile.
The pain initially may not be constant, but it may grow worse in the evening or when that part of the body is active. As the cancer worsens, the pain becomes more constant. Over time, the bone can weaken and fracture. For some people, a fracture is the first sign that cancer has spread to the bones.
Arm and leg bones, and the bones of the spine, are the most common bone sites for cancer to spread. Nearly 560,000 people are expected to die from cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Almost all will have some sort of cancer metastasis and more than half of them will have bone metastasis.
Medications Can Cause Bone Loss
Besides the risk of metastasis, bones are affected by cancer treatment themselves. A recent study at Washington University School of Medicine found that a medication used to help reduce side effects of chemotherapy can cause bone loss.