Metastatic Bone Disease

Cancer in other areas of the body can also spread to the skeleton. Cancers that start in the bone are known as primary bone cancers, which are different from bone metastases. However, bone metastases are much more common, especially in adults. Common types of cancer that spread to the skeleton include breast, prostate, lung, kidney, and thyroid. Metastatic tumors can damage the bones and make them more likely to break.

Surgeons at GDO have extensive experience evaluating and treating metastatic bone cancer. Sometimes only observation of the bones on X-ray is all that is needed. To relieve pain and prevent the bone involved from breaking, GDO surgeons can intervene. The bone can be stabilized internally if needed, but less invasive treatments such as cement injection and radiofrequency ablation are used when appropriate.


Metastatic cancer is often found in bones near the center of the body, including the spine, hip bone, pelvis, humerus, ribs, and skull. It is often found on tests done with a primary cancer is first diagnosed.


Painless metastases may be treated with observation only. If pain and functional limitation are present, GDO surgeons can intervene to stabilize the bone involved. Often this is done in a minimally invasive fashion in the outpatient surgical setting. Larger, more involved tumors may require more extensive surgery to restore function and eliminate pain.


A biopsy is often necessary to confirm the diagnosis of a metastatic bone tumor and is usually done in the setting of a minor outpatient surgery. Tissue can be sent as a frozen section so that the preliminary diagnosis is known the same day. Biopsy of musculoskeletal tumors should be performed by specialists who do this procedure regularly, as an inappropriate biopsy can lead to significant preventable morbidity or severe complications.