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Breast cancer, simply, is a cancer that develops in breast tissue. It is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, the first most common being skin cancer. If breast cancer is diagnosed early, there is a good chance for a complete cure. When diagnosis is delayed, the cancer may metastasize — spread — to other parts of the body. When breast cancer spreads, one of the more common cancers it can cause is bone cancer: This is the a link between breast cancer and bone cancer.
Primary bone cancer is cancer that has not been caused by the metastasis of cancer from anyplace else in the body. It begins in the bones, usually the long bones of the arms and legs, though it can begin in any bone. Some of the types of primary bone cancer are osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and the Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors (ESFT). None of these is directly related to breast cancer, and all are considered to be rare.
Bone cancer caused by a metastasis of breast cancer is referred to as secondary or metastasized breast cancer of the bone. Breast cancer and bone cancer are often linked together, as when breast cancer metastasizes it is not uncommon for it to spread to the bone. The cancer cells and tumors of the metastasized cancer will be the same as the primary cancer and are treated accordingly, no matter where they occur.
The diagnoses of both breast cancer and bone cancer are made in a similar fashion. Once cancer is suspected, the patient will undergo many tests to determine if cancer is present, what kind of cancer it is, where it is located and how large any tumors are. Blood tests often give the first clue, when certain markers are outside of the normal range. The patient’s history, especially any problems with pain, is also important. Tests that can provide images of the inside of the body are routine when cancer is suspected and can include X-rays, a mammogram, a bone scan, a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, and an angiogram.
The combination of breast cancer and bone cancer is usually more difficult to treat than one or the other, and its presence indicates that there are almost certainly cancer cells in the blood stream and the lymphatic system. The course of treatment is based on the original cancer, breast cancer, and chemotherapy as well as other treatments are applied accordingly. No matter where it starts, the earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat and cure, and the less likely it will spread to other parts of the body.