Orthopedic Oncology for Bone Metastasis
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When Breast Cancer Spreads - Bone Metastasis
Sometimes, breast cancer becomes advanced and metastasizes (spreads) to other areas of the body. The bone is the most common site of spread from breast cancer. Bone metastasis can damage the bone, making it more prone to break or collapse, as well as result in bone pain and other side effects that can interfere with your daily activities.
Orthopedic Oncology for Breast Cancer Bone Metastasis
The Orthopedic Oncology Department at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Eastern Regional Medical Center (Eastern), our Philadelphia hospital, offers advanced treatments and procedures for breast cancer bone metastasis. Orthopedic oncology can help stabilize the weakened bone, prevent/repair fractures and help you maintain your quality of life.
The department, led by internationally recognized orthopedic oncologist Dr. Richard Schmidt, treats about 15 stage 4 breast cancer patients a week. The team aims to get patients out of bed, active and moving around.
Diagnosing Bone Metastasis
To diagnose bone metastasis, your CTCA care team may use a variety of tests, including a bone scan. In a bone scan, a small dose of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream, where it then gathers in the bones and is detected by a scanner through nuclear imaging. Your doctor may also use other tests, such as X-Rays, MRIs and PET/CT scans, to monitor the effects of the metastases over time.
Treatments for Metastatic Breast Cancer to Bone
Treatments for advanced breast cancer are different from treatments for early stage breast cancer. Your CTCA care team will tailor your treatment plan to your unique diagnosis and needs. We’ll use a combination of therapies to fight the disease and help you maintain your quality of life.
A common treatment for breast cancer that spreads to the bone is Zometa®, which is in a class of drugs called bisphosphonates. Generally administered through an infusion, this treatment is used to reduce the risk of bone complications, such as fractures.
The orthopedic oncology team, in collaboration with the rest of your CTCA care team, may also provide any of the following procedures to restore function, relieve pain and help you maintain an independent lifestyle:
- Rodding/rod fixation – to prevent the bone from breaking
- Total knee replacement – to restore function
- Total hip replacement – to restore function
- Bone grafting/synthetic bone substitute (e.g., Kyphoplasty) – to fill in holes in the bone
- Palliative surgery – to relieve pain
Innovations in Kyphoplasty
Kyphoplasty is a procedure used to rebuild cracked or collapsed vertebrae, which can result from breast cancer bone metastasis. First, a special balloon is gently inflated inside the fractured bone to expand it to its normal height. Then, using image guidance, a cement-like material is injected directly into the fractured bone through a hollow needle.
For this procedure, Dr. Schmidt uses a new type of synthetic bone material called HydroSet. The material, he says, is as strong as bone and, when it sets, doesn’t get hot and injure normal bone tissue. It also hardens within five minutes after being injected into the bone.
Kyphoplasty involves a short surgical and recovery time, and can help to relieve pain, restore height, reduce spinal deformity and stabilize fractures.
Helping You Maintain Your Quality of Life
Breast cancer that spreads to the bone can cause side effects, such as pain, that can interfere with your ability to participate in activities you enjoy. Unrelieved bone pain can affect your eating, sleeping, activity, mood, and concentration. It can also slow your recovery from cancer treatment.
Dr. Schmidt and his orthopedic oncology team will work closely with the other members of your CTCA care team to support you. During your breast cancer treatment, you’ll receive supportive therapies like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, pain management, oncology rehabilitation, mind-body medicine and spiritual support. These therapies can help keep you strong in body, mind and spirit.
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