Secondary bone tumours may be treated with surgery. You may have surgery:
- to strengthen a weakened bone
- to relieve pressure on nerves in the spinal cord
- occasionally to remove a secondary cancer from a bone.
If you're struggling to find what you need, call our Support line on 0808 808 0000 (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)More ways to contact us
Surgery may be used to treat secondary bone tumours.
The aim of surgery could be to strengthen a weakened bone, such as thigh or arm bones or hip or shoulder joints. The bone may be strengthened with a metal rod, or a metal plate.
Another way to strengthen bones is with a percutaneous cementoplasty. This involves injecting a type of cement into the bone.
If you have a collapsed bone in your spine, you may have a balloon kyphoplasty. This is where a small balloon is inserted into the affected bone and inflated until the height of the bone is back to normal. When the balloon is removed, the space where it was is filled with cement.
Surgery for secondary bone cancer can also be used to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. If this is suitable for you, the aim of surgery is to remove as much of the tumour as possible from the spine.
Rarely, if only one part of your bone has cancer and it has not spread anywhere else, the surgeon might remove the affected part of the bone.
Secondary bone tumours may be treated with surgery. You may have surgery:
Bones can sometimes be weakened by the cancer cells. If this happens, it may be possible to strengthen or repair them using surgery.
Sometimes an x-ray shows that a secondary cancer has weakened a long bone such as the thigh bone (femur) or upper arm bone (humerus). If there is a risk of the bone breaking, your surgeon may suggest an operation to help strengthen it. Whether an operation is suitable for you will depend on:
The operation is usually done under a general anaesthetic. The surgeon puts a metal rod down the middle of the weakened bone or fixes a metal plate on the outside of the bone. This secures and strengthens the bone, holding it firmly so it won’t break. The rods or plates stay in permanently.
A type of plastic bone cement is sometimes used to strengthen large areas of bone damage.
How long you have to stay in hospital afterwards depends on what operation you have and how well you are. If you have surgery to the upper limbs, you usually stay in hospital for up to three days. For surgery to the lower limbs, you may need to stay in hospital for between five to seven days. You will see a physiotherapist who will give you exercises to do. Radiotherapy is often given after an operation to help strengthen a bone.
Sometimes the secondary bone cancer causes the bone to crack or break (fracture) before a strengthening operation can be done. If this happens, it may still be possible to mend the bone. Your doctor or specialist nurse will discuss this with you.
If secondary cancer has caused a lot of damage to your hip or shoulder joint, you may need an operation to replace the joint. You will need to stay in hospital for between three to seven days and will have physiotherapy afterwards.
You may also have radiotherapy before or after these operations (or both) to try to destroy any cancer cells left in the area and help repair the bone.
You may have this procedure to strengthen a weakened bone and relieve bone pain. It involves injecting a special type of cement into the bone. It can be used to treat bones in the arm or leg. It can also sometimes be used when a tumour is affecting the spine. In this case, the treatment is called vertebroplasty.
You will have a general anaesthetic or a sedative to make you feel drowsy. Your doctor will put a needle through your skin. Using x-rays or CT scans to guide them, they will inject the cement into the weakened bone.
Your doctor can talk to you about whether percutaneous cementoplasty would be suitable for you.
Surgeons can sometimes use this procedure to help strengthen and restore the height of a collapsed bone in the spine.
You will have a general anaesthetic or a sedative to make you feel drowsy. A doctor makes a small cut in your back. They then use a special instrument to insert a small balloon into the affected bone. The balloon is inflated until the height of the collapsed bone is back to normal. The balloon is then let down and removed from the bone and the space left by the balloon is filled with cement.
Balloon kyphoplasty is a specialised technique that is not suitable for everyone. There are other techniques that are similar to balloon kyphoplasty. Your doctor will be able to tell you more about these techniques and will let you know if they are suitable for you.
Surgery is only suitable to treat a small number of people with spinal cord compression. It depends on many factors, including the type of cancer you have, where it is and how unstable your spine is.
The aim of surgery is to remove as much of the tumour as possible, and relieve pressure on the spinal cord.
It may also involve stabilising the spine further by using metal rods. Your doctor or nurse will explain the operation in more detail if surgery is appropriate for you.
Occasionally, if the cancer only affects one bone and has not spread to other parts of your body, it may be possible to remove the affected area. The remaining bone may then be strengthened with a metal implant. Sometimes, the bone may be replaced with a false part (prosthesis). The operation is usually done under a general anaesthetic.
If surgery is a possible option for you, your doctor will explain the operation to you and answer any questions you have.
Secondary cancer in the bone happens when cancer cells spread to the bone from a primary tumour somewhere else in the body.
Find out about the tests and scans used to diagnose secondary bone cancer.
Download or order our information booklet about secondary bone cancer.
What's happening near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you are.
Our Online Community is always open and full of people ready to support you.
Secondary bone cancer is cancer that has spread to the bones from a primary cancer somewhere else in the body. This group is for people affected by secondary bone cancer to share experiences and get support.
We rely on a number of sources to gather evidence for our information. If you’d like further information on the sources we use, please feel free to contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
All our information is reviewed by cancer or other relevant professionals to ensure that it’s accurate and reflects the best evidence available. We thank all those people who have provided expert review for the information on this page.
Our information is also reviewed by people affected by cancer to ensure it is as relevant and accessible as possible. Thank you to all those people who reviewed what you're reading and have helped our information to develop.
You could help us too when you join our Cancer Voices Network – find out more at: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancervoices
Need to talk? Call us free* 0808 808 00 00 7 days a week, 8am-8pm
© Macmillan Cancer Support, registered charity in England and Wales (261017), Scotland (SC039907) and the Isle of Man (604). Also operating in Northern Ireland. A company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales company number 2400969. Isle of Man company number 4694F. Registered office: 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7UQ. VAT no: 668265007
We make every effort to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and up-to-date but it should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialist professional advice tailored to your situation. So far as is permitted by law, Macmillan does not accept liability in relation to the use of any information contained in this publication or third party information or websites included or referred to in it.