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Secondary cancer in the bone is the result of cancer cells spreading to the bone from a primary tumour.
The place where a cancer starts in the body is known as the primary cancer. A malignant (cancerous) tumour is made up of millions of cancer cells. Some of these cells may break away from the primary cancer and be carried in the bloodstream to another part of the body. The cancer cells may settle in that part of the body and then form a new tumour. If this happens, it’s called a secondary cancer or a metastasis.
Secondary cancer in the bone is the result of cancer cells spreading to the bone from a primary tumour somewhere else in the body. Sometimes only one area of bone is affected, but in some people the cancer spreads to a number of sites. Secondary cancers in the bone might also be called bone secondaries. Bone secondaries often develop in different bones in the body, and not all secondaries will cause symptoms or problems.
Although any type of cancer can spread to the bone, the most common types that do are cancers of the:
People who develop secondary cancer in the bone usually know that they have a primary cancer. Occasionally, a secondary bone cancer is found before a primary cancer is diagnosed. If the primary cancer can’t then be found, it is called a cancer of unknown primary|.
Secondary cancer in the bone is not the same as primary bone cancer, where cancer begins in the bone itself. Primary bone cancer is a completely different type of cancer with very different treatments. Our section on primary bone cancer| gives information about this type of cancer.
Content last reviewed: 1 December 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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