Cancer can begin in the bones or develop in another area and move into the bones. Metastasis is the medical term used to describe the process where cancer cells break away from the primary tumor (where the cancer began) and move to another part of the body, such as the bones, brain, or the liver. When these cancer cells relocate to the bone, it is called bone metastasis (or plural, bone metastases). Similar terms used to describe this include metastasis, metastatic, metastasize, metastatic bone disease, and bone metastases. 

There are two ways in which these cancer cells can move away from the primary site: through the bloodstream or the lymph node system. This more commonly occurs in patients with breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.

When cancer cells metastasize to the bone, they cause bone destruction and holes, or osteolysis, which describes this damaging process. The holes in the bones are called osteolytic lesions or lytic lesions and can weaken the bones and increase the risk of breakage or other problems.

If a doctor suspects metastasis in a bone, he or she may order an X-ray or an imaging test like an MRI and may collaborate with an orthopedic oncologist, or an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in cancers. This is because bone metastasis is typically managed by treating the primary cancer. Examples of treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. Although, some hormones can also be helpful with diseases that are impacted by hormones, like prostate cancer, and breast cancer. Bone pain associated with bone metastases can be treated with pain medications, including anti-inflammatory agents.

At University Orthopedic Surgeons, our orthopedic oncologist, Dr. Anna Wallace, is dual-fellowship-trained in orthopedic trauma and orthopedic oncology, making her more than qualified to assess, diagnose, and collaborate with your current provider to treat your condition. 

Build Your Knowledge of Bone Metastasis and Oncology

If you have recently been diagnosed with bone metastases, it can be helpful to build your knowledge about what they are and how they are treated. Here are some terms that can help you better understand bone metastasis and related issues orthopedic oncologists treat:

  • Benign tumor: A tumor without cancer. Benign bone tumors are noncancerous bone tumors.
  • Bisphosphonates: Medications that help prevent bone loss and treat osteoporosis and patients with bone metastases. These medications can also help reduce bone pain caused by bone metastases and may help reduce the risk of developing new bone metastases.
  • Bone cyst: A noncancerous type of fluid-filled tumor that is more common in children.
  • Chondroblastoma: A bone tumor that develops in the cartilage. 
  • Enchondroma: A type of cartilage tumor that is benign. Enchondromas can sometimes transform into chondrosarcomas.
  • Fibrous dysplasia: A condition where fibrous tissue begins to grow and replace normal bone and marrow, which weakens the bone.
  • Malignant bone tumor: A cancerous tumor that occurs in a hard structure such as bone or cartilage versus a soft tissue such as muscle or blood vessels.
  • Oncology: The field of medicine focused on diagnosing cancer as well as cancer treatment. Oncologists are doctors who diagnose and treat cancer patients.
  • Orthopedic oncology: Refers to the field of medicine focused on helping patients who have a sarcoma that has developed somewhere in the musculoskeletal region, such as the bones and cartilage, or soft tissues, such as the muscles.
  • Osteonecrosis: A disease caused by lack of blood to the joints, causing bone damage.
  • Primary bone cancer: When a bone cancer develops in the bone first, like osteosarcoma, it is called a primary bone cancer. When cancerous cells move to the bones from a different location, it is not a primary bone cancer. Instead, it is a metastatic bone disease or bone metastases. 
  • Sarcoma: An overall term for bone cancer or soft-tissue tumors that are malignant.
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma: These soft-tissue tumors develop in a soft tissue of the body, such as a muscle or blood vessel.

The National Cancer Institute offers additional information on metastatic bone cancer. They also offer resources that can help you cope with cancer.

Exceptional Care at University Orthopedic Surgeons

Our years of experience and advanced training devoted to the care of orthopedic issues make us who we are, but our compassionate care of our patients is what makes us dedicated to you. Our orthopedic oncologist and her team at University Orthopedic Surgeons are here to improve the health and well-being of our community, treating patients dealing with the full range of bone diseases and conditions. They are also committed to staying up to date on new treatment advances so they can offer the very best to patients.

Dr. Anna Wallace and her orthopedic oncology team are fully equipped to treat metastatic cancer of the bones as well as noncancerous soft-tissue tumors and bone tumors. They are supported by our entire team of highly experienced nurses and other clinical staff and backed by our state-of-the-art orthopedic facility. 

Since we understand coping with any cancer and navigating your appointments and care can be challenging, we remain committed to providing you with the orthopedic oncology care you need to excel.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with our orthopedic oncology specialist, call our UT Medical Center office at (865) 546-2663 or request an appointment online.