June 2, 2013 – Today, prostate and breast cancer survivors from across the country are marking National Cancer Survivors Day by shining a light on the importance of bone health in advanced cancer, and encouraging other survivors to talk to their physicians about protecting their bones.
“It’s not often that breast and prostate survivors come together, but when they do, you can bet there’s an important message to deliver,” said Jackie Manthorne, President and CEO, Canadian Cancer Survivors Network. “Many people don’t realize that the two most prevalent cancers affecting Canadian women and men today share a very common risk, and that is the disease may spread to the bone, causing serious complications. We are urging patients and survivors to be aware, know the risks, and speak to their doctors about their bone health.”
Studies show that 65 to 75 per cent of women with advanced breast cancer may experience the spread of cancer from site where the cancer started (primary site) to the bone, known as bone metastases.1 For men with prostate cancer, this figure rises to 90 per cent.2 When this happens, serious bone complications can occur, including broken bones and spinal cord compression, which may lead to severe pain, disability, hospitalization, and even death. Although a rapidly rising PSA is a sign of risk of bone metastases in prostate cancer patients, many men do not have bone metastases diagnosed until they are symptomatic. In breast and prostate cancers, it is often bone pain that is the signal of the onset of bone metastases and leads to a bone scan.3
“As an oncologist, I encourage all breast and prostate patients to maintain an ongoing dialogue about their bone health with their doctors,” said Dr. Sandy Sehdev, medical oncologist, William Osler Health Centre. “While the bone is one of the most common places for cancer to spread in advanced cases of breast and prostate cancer, the good news is that bone-targeted treatment can help prevent debilitating complications.”
“For me, it was pain in my sternum that led me to my doctor. I was shocked to learn that, not only did I have breast cancer, but it had spread to the bone and caused my sternum to crack,” said Judy McCracken, breast cancer survivor from Ontario. “Thankfully, I benefited from the advice of my doctor and a treatment that protected my bones from further complications. That’s why I’m encouraging all women and men, who, like me, have unexplained bone pain or suspect they have bone metastases to speak to their doctor.”
Unique series of artwork brings issue to forefront
To bring this issue to light, men and women’s stories of their cancer journeys will be shared through one-of-a-kind works of art created by local artists with a connection to cancer. These works were unveiled on the first Sunday in June, National Cancer Survivors Day, which is an annual “celebration of life” for cancer survivors, their friends and families.
“I have many friends for whom their prostate cancer has spread to the bone, and so I’ve seen, first-hand, how devastating bone complications, like fractures or spinal cord compression, can be. The pain from bone metastases can be excruciating,” said Stewart Campbell, prostate cancer fighter and chair of the Warriors group of Prostate Cancer Canada Network Calgary. “That is why I’ve shared my story, and am hoping that through these works of art others will be moved make choices that will protect their bones and their health.”
Five works of art have been created which depict the stories of men and women who have survived, or are still battling, breast or prostate cancer. The art represents stories of men and women from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, and each piece was created by a local artist from each respective province. Many of the men and women represented in this artwork have experienced bone metastases themselves, and others have a connection to bone metastases. In some of the works, a man and a woman’s stories have been woven together by the artist.
Additional information about the program, including visuals of the artwork and videos of the survivors, is available online at: bonehealthincancer.ca.
About Bone Complications
Bone pain dominates the daily lives of people with advanced cancer and can severely affect a patient’s quality of life.4 Up to two-thirds of people with bone metastases experience debilitating bone pain.5
Once the cancer has spread to the bone, complications can occur, such as broken bones, spinal cord compression as well as the need for radiation and/or surgery. These are known as bone complications. In people with advanced cancer, bone complications can greatly impair mobility and is associated with increased illness and death.6,7