The breast cancer journey can be unpredictable, and if your breast cancer has metastasized to your bones, you may be wondering what that means in terms of your bone health. Metastatic breast cancer occurs when the primary cancer spreads to other parts of the body. The bones are the most common site of metastasis for breast cancer cells. Since bone is a living tissue and is constantly breaking down and rebuilding, growing cancer cells on the bone can disrupt its normal function. Along with other effects of this condition, bone metastasis can cause challenges in bone health, including:
- a reduction in bone tissue
- bone fracture
- spine compression
- bone loss
- bone pain
All of these outcomes can impact a person’s quality of life and comfort. If you are diagnosed with bone metastases, both you and your health care team can make small steps to support your bones.
How to support bone health when living with bone mets?
If you’ve been diagnosed with bone mets, your health care provider has more than likely talked about your treatment plan. Your doctor is going to work to ensure that you don’t have too much calcium in your blood, a common side effect of bone metastases called hypocalcaemia. While you may be tempted to cut the dairy and other calcium-rich foods to help the cause, that step is not advised, as eating foods that contain calcium do not cause
To help flush excess calcium out of your system, some providers suggest drinking fluids and staying adequately hydrated at all times. Keeping a water bottle with you to remind yourself to drink is a good habit to get into.
Before the right bone treatment is selected, it is important to know there are factors that need to be considered, including risk to your kidney health. Certain medications that help treat bone metastases may be prescribed. Zometa and Xgeva are two common drugs used to treat bone metastases. Side effects of using Zometa include bone pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Conversely, using Xgeva may put you at an increased risk of death of bone, pain, anxiety, impaired healing, joint pain and decreased bone density.
Data suggests that Xgeva performs better than Zometa. Side effects and risk/benefits should be discussed with your health care provider.
How You Love your Bone Metastases
With a diagnosis of bone metastases, your bone health will be primarily managed by your health care provider. They will evaluate the best medication to provide for your needs and will do what they can do keep your bones as healthy as they can be.
But there are small steps you can take to support your bone health with this diagnosis too.
Dietary requirements depend on a lot of factors, including whether you are experiencing nausea from the medication or are noticing a significant amount of weight loss. General dietary recommendations are challenging to provide, and it is best to meet with a registered dietitian who can give you personalized nutrition guidance.
Eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods will fuel your body and help keep you as healthy as possible. Foods like vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, avocados, and whole grains are excellent additions to your diet when managing bone metastases.
Alcohol intake should be limited, or avoided all together. Both alcohol and certain medications are metabolized in your liver. Keeping your liver in tip-top shape by not overwhelming it with alcohol consumption can be a positive change to your lifestyle.
Calcium-rich foods should be consumed daily to continue to support your bodily functions and avoid depleting your stores in your bones.
Include some physical activity if able. Exercise and physical activity may become a challenge when managing a bone metastases diagnosis. Some physical activity may be beneficial, but any exercise plan should be discussed with your health care provider before starting. Since exercise has been shown to improve quality of life in those managing a cancer diagnosis, speaking with your health care provider to learn which exercises are safe and comfortable for you to partake in, may be a good addition to your plan of care.
Managing bone metastases can be challenging – both emotionally and physically. While you can’t cure bone metastases with your lifestyle, these changes can help you feel better and can support your health care provider’s efforts to manage your mets in a healthy way.
With all this knowledge it’s now time to start speaking with your doctor about your bone health. The next article will give you tips and tools for your next doctors appointment.