How Long Can You Live When Cancer Spreads to Bones?

Cancers usually begin in one organ or tissue of the body. When it is not treated or controlled early, the cancerous cells spread outside the affected organ to different body parts.

When the cancer cells spread to distant parts of the body, it is called cancer metastasis. When cancer spreads to bones, it is called bone metastasis or secondary bone cancer. In this article, let’s look deeper at bone cancer treatment options and the survival rate for advanced bone cancers.

What Is Metastatic Bone Cancer?

Bone metastasis occurs in people who have been diagnosed with cancer in the past or have advanced cancer that has spread to the bones. Pain is usually the first symptom in people with metastatic bone cancer. Bone metastasis also indicates that the tumor is in the advanced stages and may not be curable.

A few cancers that are more likely to spread to the bones and cause secondary bone cancer are those of:

  • Thyroid
  • Kidney
  • Lymphomas
  • Uterine
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Sarcomas

Bones in the body constantly change, replacing the old with the new. This process is called bone remodeling. Cancer disrupts the remodeling process when the bone is affected by cancer, making them weak or too dense. It depends upon the type of bone cells affected by cancer.

Based on the cells affected, bone metastasis can be:

  • Osteoblastic: When there are too many new bone cells, as seen when prostate cancer metastasizes
  • Osteolytic: When too much bone is destroyed, as seen with metastasized breast cancer cells.

Few bone cancers may show both types of metastasis.

Metastatic Bone Cancer Treatment

Bone metastasis, or the condition where cancer spreads to the bones, is usually incurable, so most bone cancer treatment options are aimed at slowing down the cancer’s growth and spread, shrinking the tumor, or reducing symptoms to improve the individual’s quality of life.

The goal of treatment for metastatic bone cancer is personalized for each individual, depending upon their needs. Most people are prescribed bone-strengthening drugs to:

  • Reduce the risk and incidences of fracture
  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce the need for other treatments like chemotherapy

A few treatment options recommended for metastatic bone cancer include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Targeted drug therapy

Some people may also be eligible for clinical trials to explore newer treatments.

An essential part of metastatic bone cancer treatment includes effective symptom management and prolonging the individual’s life. Symptomatic treatment for bone cancer depends on the type and severity of the symptoms experienced by the individual and the size and location of the tumor.

Several holistic and alternative treatments are used by people with advanced bone cancers, along with their ongoing treatment. Finding support groups is also a great way to find mental strength and optimism to go through this stage of bone cancer.

Survival and Outlook for Bone Cancers

The survival rate for cancer gives the idea of what percentage of people with a type and stage of cancer will be alive after a specified time (usually five years) after diagnosis. The survival rate does not tell how long an individual with cancer will live but gives a broad understanding of how successful a treatment or treatment plan is.

The five-year survival rate is a relative survival rate that compares people with the same type or stage of cancer to people in the population. The survival rates are generally calculated by international or government bodies for a country, region, or the world.

The five-year survival rates for some bone cancers are:

  • Chondrosarcoma: 70%
  • Chordoma: 55%
  • Giant cell tumor of the bone: 76%
  • Ewing’s sarcoma: 50%
  • Osteosarcoma: 40%

In the case of rare cancers, getting accurate survival rates can be challenging.

Survival rates for cancer that spreads to bones also depend upon your overall health and the types of treatment you receive during your treatment.

Outlook for Cancer That Has Spread to the Bones-

There is plenty of research that exists on cancer metastasis. As scientists and researchers understand how cancer spreads or metastasizes to the bones, newer treatment approaches and drugs are being developed that specifically target the rapidly growing and multiplying cancer cells.

A recent development in cancer research has been the use of nanoparticles to deliver drugs that target bone cancer cells with minimal toxicity to other cells and far lesser side effects than conventional treatments. Treating bone metastasis quickly and rapidly can lead to better results, such as reduced pain and a lesser tendency for bone fractures.

Key Takeaway

It is essential to understand that survival of secondary bone cancer depends upon many factors, and no doctor can tell you how long you have to live.

The primary goal of oncologists is to find the best possible and most effective bone cancer treatment for you. Since advanced stages of bone cancer are relatively rare, the data available is lesser than for other common cancers.

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