Like several other forms of cancer, breast cancer can spread to the bones. Because of the risk of cancer metastasizing in the bones, it is always important to tell your doctor of any discomfort you may be experiencing in your joints or bones.
Although early-stage breast cancers often do not spread, a doctor may order a bone scan if the patient is experiencing increased aches and pains.
If your cancer is relatively large or advanced, your doctor may recommend a bone scan to check for hypercalcemia (accelerated loss of calcium in the bones), which can be caused by breast cancer spreading to the bones. 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.