Metastatic Bone Cancer Surgery

When a carcinoma such as breast, lung or kidney cancer has spread to bone, it can cause significant pain. If enough of the bone has been damaged, it can even lead to fracture.

Surgery for metastatic bone tumors is performed to improve quality of life for the patient. Surgery is not expected to alter the course of the cancer. 

Generally, radiation therapy is used as the first line of treatment for bone metastases. However, in cases when there is extensive bone destruction, radiation alone may not reduce pain adequately. In some cases, surgery to reinforce the damaged bone, often to insert metal plates, rods, screws and bone cement is performed to allow improved weight bearing and reduced pain.

In some selected cases, the surgeon may recommend preventive ("prophylactic") stabilization of a bone. This is done when a tumor is considered likely to cause a fracture in the future. This scenario is most common in the thigh bone ("femur") which carries the heaviest load in the body, and thus is at the highest risk for fracture. In these cases, a rod is placed inside the bone and secured with small screws at its ends. This is a brief surgical procedure and patients are typically encouraged to bear weight immediately after surgery.

Hip Joint

When metastatic tumors lead to hip fractures, a partial hip replacement (“hemiarthroplasty”) is usually performed. The hip is under tremendous load and thus it is more effective for the patient to replace rather to repair it.