A bone scan is an imaging method that locates cancer that may have spread to the bones. Like several other forms of cancer, breast cancer can spread to the bones.
For a bone scan, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.
Like several other forms of cancer, breast cancer can spread to the bones. If breast cancer spreads the bones, a condition called hypercalcemia (accelerated loss of calcium in the bones) can occur. If the calcium loss is excessive, it can result in the formation of small holes (called osteolytic lesions) in the bones. Together, the osteolytic lesions and hypercalcemia can cause the bones to weaken significantly, increasing a patientís risk of breaks and fractures. This can be particularly troublesome for older patients who have already experienced a loss of bone density that comes with age.
The increased levels of calcium in the bloodstream caused by hypercalcemia also can result in patients feeling nauseous, losing their appetite, experiencing extreme thirst, and experiencing mental confusion. Unfortunately, because these symptoms can result from many other conditions in cancer patients, hypercalcemia is often overlooked as the cause. Tell your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. A bone scan can determine whether breast cancer has spread to the bones.