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How long for radiation to give pain relief to a metastasis?

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Jim Marshall (not a doctor) said ...

Metastases (mets) are cancers growing away from the original cancer.

In prostate cancer, metastases are often found growing in bone.

This can become very painful.


A common treatment for a painful met is a strong dose of radiation (X-rays) focussed on the met.


A special problem arises at the end of life.

No one wants to give a treatment that won't work in time.

So Rachel McDonald and her colleagues looked at how quickly radiation to one or two mets gave pain relief and a better quality of life.


The answer:

Men who responded (around 40%) reported significant pain relief at day 10, and a greater quality of life at day 42 in a number of ways.

The authors conclusion:



 Forty percent of patients experienced pain reduction and better QOL at day 10 after radiotherapy with further improvements in QOL at day 42 in responders. A single 8-Gy radiotherapy dose for bone metastases should be offered to all patients, even those with poor survival.


... end Jim


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I would go one further to add that a painful bone metastasis may be at risk of fracture if the bone is sufficiently weakened. 

In the case of a vertebral (spinal) metastasis such could cause compression of the spinal cord and paralysis beyond.

As a radiation oncologist such were treated as emergencies, in the middle of the night if needs be.

Thanks for placing the report on the forum.


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Hi Jim,
I have had 8 sessions of radiation to my lower spine (L5), I am not sure what the total dose was, but I didn't get any relief after these treatments. I was taking 2-3 endone tablets a day + fentanyl patch for pain on top of my regular medications
It wasn't until I went back to my Palliative care team that they then increased my medication by 50% and now I am virtually free of lower back pain.
In my case the radiation did nothing to ease my lower back pain
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Only 40% of men got relief at 10 days, and I guess you weren't one of the lucky ones.

The very important point in your posting is that for any man the Palliative care team are the key to treating pain and other symptoms.


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