Bone cancer and radiation therapy
What is bone cancer?
Bone cancer is a relatively uncommon form of cancer that can develop anywhere in the skeletal system. However, it is a common occurrence for other types of cancer to spread to the bone. It can be categorized as primary bone cancer – which means it originated in bone tissue, or metastatic cancer – meaning it originated from a different type of cancer that spread to the bone.
At the Austin Center for Radiation Oncology, we regularly treat men with prostate cancer that has metastasized to the bone. Once outside the prostate capsule, prostate cancer frequently spreads to the pelvic region – hip, pelvis bones, and spine. It can also metastasize to distant bones, lymph nodes and organs.
Radiation therapy is not a first-line treatment option for cancer in the bone. Instead, it is used in addition to other therapies. Customarily, radiation therapy will be used under these circumstances:
Surgery – Following surgery, radiation may be indicated if the cancer was not fully removed, or if the cancer cannot be fully removed. It will also be recommended if surgically removed tissue reveals cancerous cells along its edges, also known as a positive margin.
Cancer recurrence – Radiation therapy will be used to treat cancer in the bone that recurs after initial treatment.
Symptom management – Radiation therapy is often used to help manage symptoms such as pain or swelling.
Metastatic cancer – Radiation therapy will not cure cancer in the bone. However, it is beneficial in helping to shrink tumors and slow cancer growth.
Once cancer has metastasized, treatment options will depend on different variables, including:
- Is the cancer primary bone cancer, or a different type of primary cancer?
- What is the location of the cancer? Is it localized or systemic?
- What treatment options has the patient undergone so far – surgery, chemotherapy?
- Are the patient’s bones compromised in any way – weak, broken?
- What is the patient’s overall health?
- What symptoms is the patient currently experiencing?
When utilizing radiation therapy for cancer in the bone, high doses of radiation are required. Because of this, surrounding tissue may be damaged during treatment. To help reduce the risk of damage, a specific type of radiation called Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is used. While a form of External Beam Therapy, this protocol uses precise computer mapping to outline the shape of the tumor being treated. Once identified, several high intensity beams of radiation are focused directly along and within the shape of the tumor. The goal is to direct high levels of radiation at the tumor being treated, while minimizing contact with surrounding tissue.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer that has spread to the bone, contact the Austin Center for Radiation Oncology to schedule a consultation with Dr. Richard Garza.