There are cases where metastatic cancer is discovered before or at the same time as the primary cancer. When the metastases are discovered first, doctors can try to determine where the cancer came from based on the type of cancer cells that make up the metastases, or how the cancer has spread through the body. If your doctor suspects bone metastases are the source of your symptoms, there are several ways he or she can test for it.

Imaging Tests

X-rays, CT scans, or other imaging techniques provide detailed pictures of the body’s interior and can confirm cancer has spread to the bones and reveal the severity of the metastases. These methods can also help spot fractures stemming from the cancer.

Blood/Urine Tests

Blood or urine tests can find detectable warnings left by bone metastases, such as higher calcium levels in the blood. There are also several protein markers of bone loss that may be elevated in patients with bone metastases.


Another possibility is taking a tissue sample and testing it for cancer. Known as a biopsy, the process involves taking a tissue sample with a long needle. In some instances, it might require surgery.

Determining the Best Treatment Approach

Doctors will have to consider a variety of factors when determining how to treat bone metastases. These factors include:

  • type of primary cancer that metastasized
  • how far the cancer has spread
  • the strength of the patient’s skeleton
  • the level of pain the patient has
  • the patient’s interest in pursuing treatment for the lesions

Depending on these factors, treating bone metastases often involves a comprehensive approach that can include one or more of the following:

  • treating the primary cancer
  • reducing the size of the metastases
  • managing pain
  • reducing bone loss