Your specialist team may recommend you have bisphosphonates.
These are drugs that strengthen the bones, relieve bone pain and reduce the risk of getting a broken bone (fracture.) They are also given to treat high levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia).
When cancer cells spread to the bone, they produce chemicals that affect the osteoclasts (the cells that destroy old bone). The osteoclasts become overactive, so more bone is broken down. This commonly causes small holes in the bone.
Bisphosphonates work by reducing the activity of the osteoclasts.
There are different types of bisphosphonate. The one you have will depend on your general health and the type of cancer you have. Commonly used bisphosphonates are:
- zoledronic acid
- disodium pamidronate
- sodium clodronate
- ibandronic acid.
You may have bisphosphonates as a drip (infusion) into a vein (intravenously). This is often given in the outpatient department every 3 to 4 weeks. Each treatment usually takes 15 to 60 minutes. Or you may take your bisphosphonates as tablets or capsules.
If you are given tablets or capsules to take, you’ll be asked to take them on an empty stomach at least half an hour before food. You can’t eat or drink for six hours (usually overnight) before taking some of the tablets, and they should be taken when you’re sitting or standing, not lying down. This helps the drug move quickly into the stomach and reduces the risk of it staying in the throat or gullet where it can cause irritation. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will explain how you should take your tablets.