WHEN BREAST CANCER SPREADS TO BONE

Breast cancer spreads to the bone more commonly than to other places in the body. When breast cancer spreads, it is called "metastatic breast cancer." When it spreads to the bone, those tumors are called "bone mets." 1

 

BONE METASTASES AND BREAST CANCER

 

About
7 of 10
 

women with advanced metastatic breast cancer develop bone mets2

WHY DOES BREAST CANCER SPREAD TO BONE?

Scientists think there may be a few reasons why breast cancer most commonly spreads 
to the bone:

  • Bone is an area of high blood flow. This may make it more likely that cancer cells traveling in the bloodstream will reach and settle in bone, compared to other places in the body.3
  • Cancer cells can "stick" to bone. Cancer cells may make a substance that helps them stay in the bone.3,4
  • Cancer cells can grow in bone. Once in bone, cancer cells may release chemicals that help them grow into a tumor.3,4

Bone metastases are a frequent result of cancer3
 

WHEN BREAST CANCER SPREADS TO BONE, WHY IS IT STILL CALLED BREAST CANCER?

When cancer spreads to a new place in the body, it has the same type of cancer cells as the original tumor–and therefore the same name.5 For example, breast cancer that spreads to the bone is still breast cancer, not bone cancer. This is important because cancer treatment plans are based on where the cancer started.1

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU HAVE BONE METS FROM BREAST CANCER?

As tumors grow, they can weaken and destroy the bone. Bone mets can lead to serious bone problems. Serious bone problems are defined as1:

  • Broken bones (fractures)
  • A need for surgery to prevent or repair broken bones
  • A need for radiation treatments to bone
  • Pressure on the spinal cord (spinal cord compression)

 

REFERENCES:
  1. American Cancer Society. Advanced cancer. American Cancer Society website. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003082-pdf.pdf. Revised March 6, 2014. Accessed May 5, 2015.
  2. Galasko C. The anatomy and pathways of skeletal metastases. In: Weiss L, Gilbert HA, eds. Bone Metastasis. Boston, MA: GK Hall; 1981:49-63.
  3. Roodman GD. Mechanisms of bone metastasis. N Engl J Med. 2004;350:1655-1664.
  4. American Cancer Society. Bone metastasis. American Cancer Society website. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003087-pdf.pdf. Revised February 17, 2014. Accessed May 5, 2015.
  5. National Cancer Institute. Metastatic cancer fact sheet. National Cancer Institute website. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/what-is-cancer/metastatic-fact-sheet. Reviewed March 28, 2013. Accessed May 4, 2015.