The skeleton is the most common organ for metastasis from solid tumours. Bone metastases pose significant diagnostic and clinical challenges and represent an important cause of cancer-related morbidity. Without appropriate bone-directed therapy, many patients will be at high risk for potentially debilitating skeletal-related events (SREs), such as pain, bone fractures, neurologic deficits and hypercalcemia, severely impacting on the patient's quality of life. Because of their high incidence, bone metastases impose significant demands on health care resources. The optimal management of skeletal metastases depends on the underlying biology of the disease, the extent of bone involvement, the presence and severity of symptoms, the availability of effective systemic therapies and life expectancy of the patient. This article discusses clinical issues concerning diagnosis and available treatment approaches based on the presentation of skeletal involvement. Emphasis is placed on the role of external beam-radiotherapy as a local mode of treatment for palliation of bone pain, decompression of epidural compression and as potential ablative approach through high-dose image-guided irradiation (IGRT) in patients presenting with oligometastatic disease.
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