Secondary bone cancer

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with secondary bone cancer, we can provide the information you need, from understanding the cancer itself, to choosing the right treatment, to finding support.

Secondary bone cancer is different from primary bone cancer. If you're not sure what the difference is or how it affects you, you can call our Cancer Nurseline on 1 800 200 700.

What you should know about secondary bone cancer

  • When cancer spreads from where it started to distant tissues like the bones, it is called metastatic or secondary cancer.
  • Symptoms of secondary bone cancer include bone pain, weakened bones, a raised calcium level and pressure on the spinal cord.
  • Secondary bone cancer is diagnosed by a bone scan, X-rays, CT scan, MRI scan, PET scan, blood tests and biopsy.
  • Secondary bone cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or bisphosphonates.
  • The symptoms of bone cancer can be helped with painkillers, radiotherapy and surgery.

What are the bones?

The bones are rigid tissues that make up your skeleton. They help you to move, support and protect the organs in your body. They also store minerals and make red and white blood cells in your bone marrow. There are over 206 bones of different shapes and sizes in an adult.

Structure of the Bone

What is secondary bone cancer?

When cancer spreads from where it started to distant tissues like the bones, it is called metastatic or secondary cancer. Primary cancer refers to where the cancer first starts. If a cancer starts in the bone, this is called primary cancer of the bone. It is completely different from secondary bone cancer and has a different treatment. The bones which cancer often spreads to include the spine, ribs, pelvis, skull, and the upper bones of the arms and the legs.

What is the cause of secondary bone cancer?

The cause of secondary cause is a primary cancer somewhere else in the body. It is possible for any cancer to spread to the bone. But breast, prostate, lung, thyroid and kidney are the most common types of cancers that spread to the bones. The cancer cells can travel to the bones in the bloodstream or lymph system.

Cancer publications

For booklets and factsheets, including information about cancer types, treatments, side-effects, emotional effects, financial information and more. Visit our publications section.