Breast cancer has several implications. The foremost is the spread and the prognosis of the disease after 10 years. Around 13-20% of women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and around 70% suffer from breast cancer with bone metastasis where the cancer has spread to the bones.
Metastasis occurs when the original or primary cancer cells break off from the tumour and get attached to other organs via the blood stream. One of the most common sites of breast cancer metastasis is bone cancer. Bone metastasis occurs when the breast cancer cells travel to the bones via the blood and form new tumours. This is called as breast cancer with bone metastasis.
The spread of the cancer is done via x-rays, bone scans, CAT scans and CT scans. A bone biopsy may also be done to assess the presence of cancerous cells.
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer With Bone Metastasis
The cancer often eats into the bones and makes them fragile leading to repeated fractures. The hard surface of the bone is weakened due to the spread of the cancerous cells. The most common areas of bone fractures are the weight bearing bones like that of the leg.
An arm bone may break when carrying excess weight. The thighbone may pain incessantly after some exercise and the pelvis and backbone can also fracture with incorrect posture, or poor form. This is a warning sign that the cancer has spread to the bone.
Weakness Or Numbness in Lower Extremities
Cancer that has spread to the spine can put pressure on the nerves and lead to nerve weakness, tingling sensations and numbness. Shooting sciatica like pain may also be a common symptom. If these symptoms are ignored, the nerves of the spinal cord can get completely compressed and this can lead to paralysis.
Achy joints and bone and muscular pain becomes chronic with bone cancer. This stops responding to medication and OTC painkillers. The pain becomes so acute that walking may become extremely difficult. The pain may come and go and becomes worse at night. Eventually the pain may become severe.
Bone loss can release excessive calcium in the blood and this can lead to a condition called as hypercalcaemia. In this, the person suffers from typical symptoms like being very thirsty, urinating, constipation and loss of appetite. Being sleepy and being confused are some of the other symptoms.
The other symptoms of bone cancer include cancer that affects the bone marrow. In this, the blood count significantly gets affected. The number of red blood cells may drop and this may lead to severe anaemia and weakness.
Signs of weakness are tiredness, weakness and shortness of breath. In case the white blood cells are affected, people may develop infections. Signs of infection include fever, chills, fatigue or pain.
The treatment of bone cancer and bone metastasis is aimed at containing the spread of cancer to the bones. Thus, chemotherapy and surgery can help to remove tumours and prevent their spread to other parts of the body.