Treatment for secondary bone cancer

Main treatments

Your treatment will depend on where the cancer first started and what bones are involved. The aim of treatment for a secondary bone cancer is to relieve any symptoms and try to control the cancer.

There are different types of treatment for secondary bone cancer. These include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Both hormone therapy and chemotherapy
  • Bone-strengthening drugs (biophosponates and monoclonal antibodies)

Bone strengthening drugs are not a treatment for the cancer but may help to reduce the breakdown of your bone and reduce bone pain. They may be given in a drip or an injection or in tablet form, depending on the drug.

More information on bone-strengthening drugs

How can my symptoms be helped?

Pain: Pain can be managed with treatment and/or painkillers. Do let your doctor know the level of your pain. He or she will decide which painkillers are right for you. Sometimes the homecare team (attached to the local hospice) might become involved to help manage your symptoms. Radiotherapy may also be used to relieve any symptoms of pain.

Please see our booklet Understanding Radiotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more information on radiotherapy. You might find our Understanding Cancer and Complementary Therapies booklet, which is also listed there, helpful for dealing with bone pain too.

Weakening of the bones: Your bones may be weaker and at risk of breaking. If a bone looks weak, you may need surgery to strengthen it and prevent it from breaking. Metal pins can be put into bones or joints replaced.

Hypercalcaemia (raised calcium level): This can make you feel tired, sick, constipated, thirsty or confused. It can be helped by drinking lots of water. Or you may have a drip with fluids put into your arm. Bisphosphonate drugs may be given as well.

Spinal cord compression: This may cause pain, muscle weakness and tingling and numbness of your hands and legs. Steroids may be given to reduce swelling and pressure around your spine. Sometimes surgery or radiotherapy may be used as well.

Fatigue/breathlessness/infection: If you have bone cancer, it may affect your bone marrow. This means that you might have fewer red cells , leading to tiredness and breathlessness. You might also have fewer white cells, which puts you at risk of infection. Take plenty of rest and your doctors will give you a blood transfusion if needed.

Learn more about treatments

Side effects

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health . Some treatments may cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite or hair loss. Hormone therapy can cause hot flushes and sweating in both men and women.
Bisphosphonates can cause low calcium levels, kidney problems and jaw problems. Many treatments cause fatigue.

Your doctor will discuss any likely side-effects before treatment. For more information on chemotherapy, please see our booklet Understanding Chemotherapy and Other Cancer Drugs, which you can download from our "Publications about cancer treatment side effects" list on the right hand side of this page.

Learn more about side effects

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.

Learn more about clinical trials

Call our Cancer Nurseline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse. It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 6pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm

Date Last Revised: 
Thursday, March 3, 2016