What Is Bone Mets?
Bone metastasis (known as bone mets) occurs when breast cancer cells break away from the breast and travel to the bones using the bloodstream or lymph system. Once settled in the bones, the cancer cells multiply and grow new tumors.
Bone is the most frequent site of initial metastasis in breast cancer patients and well over 50% of women with stage IV breast cancer develop bone metastasis (Annals of Oncology). In Angela’s case, her breast cancer first metastasized to her breastbone.
In addition to the negative effects of breast cancer treatments and estrogen loss on bone, breasties with bone mets also have to deal with calcium loss. When malignant cancer cells enter bone, those cells draw calcium out of the bone and dump it into the bloodstream instead. Without enough calcium, the bones become weaker.
With so much impacting their bones, 60% of women with bone metastasis will face a serious bone event, such as spinal cord compression, bone fracture, or necessary bone surgery (Supportive Care in Cancer).
What Does Bone Mets Feel Like?
The most common symptom of bone mets is pain, ranging from aching to sharp, closely followed by generalized muscle weakness. Other prominent symptoms of bone mets include constipation (from increased blood calcium), dehydration, sleepiness and fatigue, bone fractures (breaks), spinal cord compression, and high blood calcium levels (American Cancer Society).
Angela experiences joint and bone pain as well as fatigue. “I feel like I’m an 80-year old lady,” she explains. “It tires you out; you need to rest. I feel like I need more help with daily chores. Sometimes I try to keep going, but when your body says sit down you have to sit down, take a break, and re-energize.”
Naps have become Angela’s number one tool for tackling fatigue. As for the pain, Angela tries different remedies including epsom salt baths, a heated massager, acupuncture, and stretching. The most significant management of bone mets symptoms, though, comes from the many ways that Angela cares for her bones every day.
Angela’s Five Ways to Love Your Bones
First and foremost: Listen to your body!
For a longtime single mom who wakes up at 4am to run her nonprofit, Angela has had to learn how to pace herself and how to listen to her body. “I have to take breaks and that’s okay,” Angela says. “You have to listen to your body and not overdo it.”