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Bone health

Metastatic breast cancer can have a significant impact on bone health. Specifically, breast cancer cells can spread to the bone and damage the bone cells. This can increase your risk of a bone fracture (or a broken bone) and osteoporosis, causing bone pain.

There are two types of medications that can be used to strengthen bones and treat bone pain:

  • Bisphosphonates (Zometa, Bondronat) – given intravenously or as oral tablets
  • Biologic agents (Xgeva) – given as a monthly injection under the skin

People with breast cancer may take bisphosphonates or biologic agents to:

  • treat bone pain
  • prevent bone fractures
  • reduce the need for radiotherapy of the bone cancer
  • maintain calcium levels in the blood

Side effects

Side effects of bisphosphonates and biologic agents can include:

  • diarrhoea
  • flu-like symptoms
  • nausea
  • hypocalcaemia (low levels of calcium)

There is also a very low risk of osteonecrosis (bone loss) of the jaw (ONJ).

If you are experiencing any of these side effects, our Managing symptoms and side effects page may help.

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