- Question from Yhu: Is the bone scan a normal procedure after finishing the chemo and radiation?
As I said a little bit earlier, bone scans are not routinely done in the absence of any symptoms. But if you have pain that is persistent over a period of time and is unlike any pain that you are used to (for example, pain in your lower back or some other part of your bones or skeleton), then, by all means, call your oncologist and ask to have the pain evaluated. It's less common now for women to have a bone scan as part of their initial diagnostic workup, but I'm glad that I did, because when I did have persistent lower back pain, the radiologist was able to compare that scan with the earlier scan.
But there is no need for a woman to have a bone scan every year. The bones are exquisitely sensitive often, and, as I said, your body will let you know if there is a problem. It can be treated at that time, and just as effectively as it would have been had you had a scan a few months earlier before you had any pain.
Marisa C. Weiss, M.D.
Many women use different words to describe pain. Your doctor may ask you, "Do you have any pain?" and you may say "No." And if you're asked the right question, you may volunteer that you have an ache or pull or discomfort or another word that may describe how you're feeling. It's important to let your doctor know how you're feeling right up front.
Also, you may experience other discomforts that may be a signal that a problem could exist—like a shooting discomfort that may start in the back area and go down your leg that may later become associated with back discomfort. Numbness can also be a symptom. Some women with significant involvement of the back area can experience these types of symptoms. But keep in mind that lower back pain is an extremely common symptom for people in general. This includes women who've had breast cancer.
Most of the time when you experience back pain, it's going to be because of a strain or other types of wear-and-tear on your back. As Dr. Winer said, if you experience a new symptom that persists or gets worse, bring it to your doctor's attention. If you are someone who has known bone metastases and you're being treated for that, your doctor may order bone scans intermittently to follow your response to treatment.
On Wednesday, September 17, 2003, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Metastatic Breast Cancer. Musa Mayer, Eric P. Winer, M.D., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about treatment and quality of life issues related to advanced (metastatic) breast cancer.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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