Treatment overview

Treatment for secondary bone cancer usually aims to:

  • relieve any symptoms, such as bone pain, to make you feel more comfortable
  • treat the underlying cancer
  • reduce the risk of a bone fracture or a high calcium level in the blood (hypercalcaemia).

Treatment is normally given with the aim of controlling the cancer rather than curing it. However, many people live with secondary bone cancer for a long time.

Relieving symptoms

Radiotherapy is the main treatment used to relieve bone pain and make you feel more comfortable. This may be given by a machine similar to an x-ray machine as external beam radiotherapy. You may also have internal radiotherapy using a radioisotope (a radioactive liquid). This may be given by injection, as a drip into a vein, or by mouth.

Treating the primary cancer

Treating the primary cancer may help reduce the size of your secondary cancer and may also reduce symptoms.

The type of treatment you have will depend on where your cancer started. This is because the secondary cancer cells in the bone have come from your original primary cancer so will usually respond to the same type of treatment. You may be offered:

Reducing the risk of fractures and hypercalcaemia

You may have drugs called bisphosphonates or a drug called denosumab. These are all bone-strengthening drugs. They are used to reduce the risk of fractures or hypercalcaemia, and to relieve pain.

Some people may have an operation to strengthen or to remove and replace a weakened bone. We have more information about surgery for secondary bone cancer.

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