Metastatic bone cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on June 8, 2022.

When cancer cells break away from the original tumor, they may travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body. This spread of cancer to a new part of the body is called metastasis. When cancer spreads to a new area, it is still named after the part of the body where it started. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lungs is still called breast cancer, not lung cancer. Likewise, metastatic bone cancer forms in the bone and spreads to other areas of the body.

Bone cancer is very rare in adults. The many different types of primary bone cancer are named based on the part of the body or nearby tissue affected, as well as the type of cells forming the tumor. Bone cancer may occur in any bone in the body, but it most often develops in the long bones of the arms and legs.

Metastatic bone cancer symptoms

Symptoms of metastatic bone cancer vary depending on the area to which the cancer has spread. For example, if the cancer spreads to the lungs, it may cause breathing difficulties.

Other common metastatic bone cancer symptoms include:

  • Unexplained pain or swelling
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss

Metastatic bone cancer treatment options

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our cancer experts provide personalized treatment plans using conventional, evidence-based medical treatments to attack the cancer, while providing supportive care services designed to help reduce side effects.

The primary treatment for metastatic bone cancer is anti-cancer drug therapy. Radiation therapy, surgery and  may also be recommended. In addition to treating the cancer, other palliative therapies may be used to help manage pain, discomfort, functional limitations and other side effects and to improve quality of life.

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