- Metastasis means that cancer has spread to other areas of the body, often the skeleton.
- Pain during moments of rest is an alert sign of this disease.
- A multidisciplinary treatment that may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery will seek to stop the spread of metastasis.
In recent years, an increase in cancer cases has been observed worldwide, which implies a greater detection of metastatic bone disease, says Dr. Raúl Álvarez San Martín, orthopedics specialist at ABC Medical Center. Orthopedic surgeons have a relevant role in the treatment of these injuries.
What is metastasis?
When talking about metastasis, we are talking about cancer that has spread to other areas of the body such as the bones, for example.
“Bone metastasis occurs when cancer cells spread from their original site to a bone. Almost all types of cancer can spread (metastasize) to the bones. But some types of cancer are especially more likely to spread, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.”1
For metastasis to stay in the bone, cancer cell needs to find a niche in which to grow, adapt, and begin to secrete substances that directly stimulate osteoclasts, cells that build bone, to destroy it.
Another way in which cancer cells can spread is through blood, capillaries, or lymph nodes, because, being defense stations for the body, they can destroy some viruses, but some metastatic cells can also remain there. Due to this, the lymph nodes must be removed to ensure that it has not spread through them.
How can bone metastases be identified?
Dr. Álvarez says that there are different warning signs for the detection of bone metastases, the main one being pain.
Suffering pain while at rest that does not come from a blow or an effort, is a sign that should be considered, as well as fractures due to simple actions such as throwing a ball, going down a step, or even sitting down.
Suspicion will increase if the person who has suffered these pains or this fracture also had a previous cancer diagnosis.
Pain that is not controlled, that is constant and diffuse (that cannot be located), is not normal (caused by a blow) and, therefore, a doctor should be consulted to find its origin. It is best not to take for granted that it is something common, such as “rheumatism” or a cold, and a diagnosis that allows this type of condition to be found and treated in time should be sought.
Different studies such as CT scans, MRIs, x-rays, and blood tests are necessary to determine bone metastasis. In addition, some tests use contrast agents which can be distributed in areas of the body with greater metabolic activity such as the brain or liver, but if it is located in an area of the bone, it means that there is a lesion that could be a primary tumor or a metastatic bone disease.
After this, its origin must be determined, by taking a sample of the tissue by puncturing the bone to identify the type of tumor or metastasis.
From this point on, says Dr. Álvarez, the specialists will recommend a multidisciplinary treatment that may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery to prevent the further spread of the disease.
At the ABC Medical Center’s Cancer Center we can provide you with specialized care. Contact us!
Dr. Raúl Álvarez San Martín – orthopedic specialist at ABC Medical Center