Researchers are always seeking new ways to treat bone metastases. They range from early warning techniques that could catch the bone metastases before they have a chance to do severe damage to new ways to attack the cancer, slow it down, or even prevent it from establishing itself on the bones. The current methods to treat bone metastases and its symptoms include the following.
Chemotherapy is a common treatment for widespread metastatic cancers. Chemotherapy drugs are usually injected or ingested and work their way throughout the entire body. The drawback of chemotherapy treatment is that it damages healthy cells as well as cancerous ones and can cause numerous side effects such as hair loss, nausea, and vomiting. Chemotherapy can also damage bone marrow, which can lead to problems with bleeding and bruising, an increased risk of infection, and fatigue.
Hormones—such as estrogen and androgen—can encourage growth in some types of cancer. To limit hormonal effects on cancer cells, doctors can remove the ovaries or testicles (the organs that produce these hormones) or administer drugs that stop hormone production or block their effect on cells. Hormone therapy has side effects similar to menopause and other hormonal fluctuations, including hot flashes, anemia, and loss of sex drive.
Bone metastases can be treated with a direct beam of radiation emitted from an external machine. This treatment can either be administered in one big dose or in a series of smaller ones over time. Although this technique can be used to cure primary cancer if it is found early, radiation is usually used to alleviate pain caused by bone metastases. If used early enough, it can also help prevent the cancer from weakening bones to the point of fracture. The treatment is painless but may not be an option if the bones are already badly weakened.
Although there are a variety of treatments, there is no cure for bone metastases. However, there are ways to alleviate symptoms they cause. Medications called bisphosphonates can be used to stabilize and reduce the loss of calcium from the bones. Furthermore, a variety of pain medications can dull the pain caused by bone metastases. Easing symptoms can allow a patient to have a higher quality of life during his or her battle with the cancer.