February 14, 2014 1:38 pm

Q and A with Dr. Kris Gast

Posted in: Ask the Pros

Q: My father had prostate cancer and later developed bone cancer.  How common is bone cancer?

A: Primary bone cancer is, in fact, quite rare.  Without reviewing your father’s medical records, I will assume that he actually had prostate cancer that spread to his bones, called metastasis.  For nearly half of the patients in the United States who die of cancer, their disease had spread to their bones.  Most frequently, the cancers that tend to spread to the bones are breast, lung, and prostate cancer.  Bone metastasis can result in bone pain and even fractures. With today’s technology bone metastasis can be treated with drug therapy, which can help stabilize the bones and hopefully delay the pain or fractures. Radiation therapy is also an excellent tool to use to help eliminate the pain caused by the bone metastasis.

 

Q: Why do people not like to go to the doctor?

A: In the medical world we call this reluctance to see a physician the “white coat syndrome.” Many people develop great anxiety at the thought of visiting their doctors. Why? One reason may be that they are afraid of what the doctor might find.  On the other hand, some people have the attitude of “If it’s not broken, why fix it?” Another unfortunate reason is that many patients today have financial issues that may prohibit them from routinely visiting their doctors. Whatever the reason, just remember your doctor is there to help you take better care of yourself and live a healthy life.  Since often health issues can be avoided with preventative care, a visit with your physician before a major health problem occurs is definitely beneficial.

 

Q: Can a biopsy of a cancer cause the cancer cells to spread?

A: Cancer is almost always diagnosed by a biopsy, a surgical procedure that removes tissue samples from tumors.  The biopsy specimen is then viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to determine the presence and type of cancer. A good biopsy specimen is absolutely critical to select the proper type of cancer treatment.

The worry that having a biopsy could, in fact, spread the cancer is a common concern for most patients. The short answer is no; a biopsy does not cause cancer to spread. Historically, the common perception is that when a biopsy is performed either by a needle or by surgery, the exposure of air to the tumor site could cause the cancer to spread.  This assumption is not true. A fear of “seed tracking”, spread (or seed) of the cancer along the line of the needle insertion and withdrawal, with needle biopsies is another concern.  However, this risk is theoretical, as it has never been proven in a strong, reliable, scientific cancer study.

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