When Breast Cancer Spreads to the Bones

Before you have surgery for breast cancer, your doctor is likely to schedule a bone scan for you. This test can show if the cancer has spread to the bones, called bone metastasis.

If bone metastasis has occurred, it can cause your bones to lose calcium quickly. The condition is called hypercalcemia. If not treated, hypercalcemia can leave small holes in your bones, called osteolytic lesions. Hypercalcemia and osteolytic lesions can greatly weaken your bones and put you at risk for breaks. This is particularly serious for older women who already have naturally weaker bones.

Symptoms of Hypercalcemia

These are some other symptoms related to hypercalcemia:

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • confusion

Treatment for Bone Metastasis

If your doctor finds bone metastases, you will most likely be treated with bisphosphonate. This drug is given through an intravenous (IV) line. It is given in addition to your chemotherapy. Or you may have hormone therapy. Or you may have both. Here’s how the bisphosphonate works:

  • It inhibits further bone damage.

  • It reduces common symptoms.

  • It helps prevent complications of bone metastasis.

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