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What is Metastatic Bone Cancer?

Metastatic bone cancer results from cancer cells, which originated in one organ, and then broke away and settling into a distant location in bone where they grow into a new tumor. Typically metastatic bone cancer indicates that the cancer cells have been traveling throughout the body's bloodstream or lymphatic system and therefore, many sites of metastatic bone cancer may occur at same time.

These sites of cancer growing within the bones can be painful and can weaken the bone significantly, making it more susceptible to fracture, even under normal conditions.


Pain is the primary symptom of metastatic bone cancer. Pain may either occur at rest, due to the metastatic cancer growing within the bone. Or, pain may occur with routine activities, such as walking, indicating the bone has been significant weakened by the cancer, causing it to fatigue under normal loading conditions.


After discussing your symptoms with your doctor, typically X-rays are the first diagnostic test utilized to identify the presence of metastatic bone cancer. Additional advanced test, such as a bone scan or PET/CT are also useful to determine the extent of disease throughout the body. Not only is it important to determine the presence of disease, but also the extent to which the structural integrity of the bone has been compromised.


A multi-disciplinary team is required for comprehensive treatment of metastatic bone cancer. Potential treatments include:

  • Medication to decrease the occurrence of disease
  • Radiation therapy to prevent disease propagation
  • Surgical intervention to either reinforce a fragile bone or stabilize a fracture

The treatment of metastatic bone cancer is typically palliative, meaning treatment is intended maximize patients' quality of life by optimizing their pain and function. In rare and specific situations, patients with metastatic bone cancer can be cured of their disease with optimal multidisciplinary treatment.

At the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, our mission is to maximize patients' quality of life. To advance that mission, we have initiated a prospective study to evaluate patients' function and pain improvements following surgical intervention for metastatic bone cancer. With this information and other advancements in patient care, we all work together to maximize patients' ability to derive enjoyment from life.