University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute | UCCI

Contact and Appointments: (513) 475-8500

Cancers We Treat

Metastasis is a common complication of cancer. While any type of primary-site cancer can spread to the bones, the cancers most likely to metastasize are typically those that are most common.

The cancers that we treat most frequently for bone metastases include:

  • Breast
  • Colon
  • Lung
  • Prostate

Malignant melanoma can also metastasize to bone, though not as frequently as the above types of cancer.

How Cancer Metastasizes

The most common way primary-site cancer metastasizes into bone is via the blood stream. As cancer tumors grow, they can break down the barriers into the blood system. Pieces of the tumor cells can get into the blood system and become deposited in other places that serve as filters for the blood, such as bone. Another way that cancer can metastasize is by local spreading; the cancer spreads from its original point to invade surrounding tissues, including bone.

Sites of Bone Metastases

Metastases can occur in any bone, but frequently occur in bones near the center of the body.

Common sites for bone metastases include:

  • Hip bone (pelvis)
  • Ribs
  • Skull
  • Spine
  • Upper arm bone (humerus)
  • Upper leg bone (femur)

The site of the bone metastasis dictates the complexity of that patient’s care and treatment. For example, bone metastases in the bones of the spine can be very difficult to treat because of their close proximity to the spinal cord. When cancer metastasizes to the spine, this can lead to paralysis. Metastasis in other bones can cause localized pain.

Detection and Treatment

As with any cancer, it is critically important to detect and treat bone metastases as soon as possible. Identifying the metastases before they become too aggressive makes them easier to treat. The more advanced the metastases has become, the more prone the bone is to fracture, which increases the mortality rate.