A pain in the bones? Talk to your doctor

CURE, Winter 2010, Volume 9, Issue 4

It's important to evaluate bone pain because it could indicate a possible recurrence or a side effect of treatment.

In addition to bone loss, some cancer patients experience bone pain. It’s important to evaluate bone pain because it could indicate a possible recurrence or a side effect of treatment.

“Bone loss doesn’t usually cause bone pain,” says Julie Gralow, MD. “When we talk about bone pain in cancer patients, there are a lot of potential causes, but one of the big things we worry about is a recurrence of cancer in the bone. Breast and prostate cancer are two of the big cancers that tend to have a strong preference for bone if they are going to spread somewhere. Lung and kidney cancer can also spread to the bone.”

If bone pain is caused by the presence of cancer, treatment for that specific cancer is indicated, Gralow says. But sometimes bone pain and other nonspecific aches can be the result of the cancer treatment itself, such as aromatase inhibitors. “If that’s the case,” Gralow notes, “we may change the treatment or just talk the patient through it. We might give them pain relievers, such as Tylenol, and reassure them that their pain is to be expected.”