What is secondary bone cancer?

The place where a cancer starts in the body is called the primary cancer. Sometimes cells break away from the primary cancer and are carried in the bloodstream to another part of the body. The cancer cells may settle in that part of the body and form a new tumour. If this happens, it’s called a secondary cancer or a metastasis.

Cancer cells in bloodstream
Cancer cells in bloodstream

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Secondary cancer in the bone happens when cancer cells spread to the bone from a primary tumour somewhere else in the body.

Sometimes only one area of bone is affected. But in most people the cancer will spread to a number of areas.

Secondary cancers in the bone are sometimes called bone secondaries or bone metastases.

Any type of cancer can spread to the bone. But the most common types that do are:

People who develop secondary cancer in the bone usually know they have a primary cancer. Occasionally a secondary bone cancer is found before the primary cancer is diagnosed. Sometimes the primary cancer can’t be found and this is called a cancer of unknown primary.

Causes of secondary cancer in the bone

The cause of secondary cancer in the bone is always a primary cancer somewhere else in the body. We don’t fully understand why some people develop secondary cancer in the bone and others don’t.

Back to Understanding

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

The bones

The human skeleton is made up of more than 200 bones that support and protect the body.