Bone cancer

The incidence of bone cancer is very less when compared with other cancers such as the brain, lung, and blood cancers. It accounts for one percent of all the cancers. Bone cancer can occur in any bone of the body, but mostly affects bones of arms and legs. It is of two types: primary and secondary cancer. Primary cancer starts from the bone whereas secondary starts in another part of the body and spreads to the bone through metastasis.

Osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma are the common types of primary cancer.Osteosarcoma is the common bone cancer in children and young adults. Chondrosarcoma begins in the cartilage cells and is commonly observed in people more than 40 years. Ewing’s sarcoma is seen mostly in pelvis, arms, or legs of children and adults.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of bone cancer include:

  • Bone pain: It is the common bone cancer symptom. The bone pain is constant initially, but it worsens during the movement of the bone and also in the night.
  • Limping: The main bone cancer symptom in the leg is limping. If the bone of the leg is affected with cancer, then the person may limp due to increased pain in the leg bone during activity.
  • Swelling: This symptom is not seen in early stages. You may feel signs of swelling or lump at the location of the tumor.
  • Fractures: Due to cancer formation, the bone weakens and become susceptible to fracture.
  • Decreased mobility: If the tumor formation occurs at the joint, it may be difficult for you to walk.
  • Fatigue and unintended weight loss are also observed.

Causes

Mutations in the DNA can be hereditary or can occur due to other disorders or treatments. These mutations result in the abnormal growth of cells leading to tumor formation or cancer. The mutated cells or tumor cells spread to other parts of the body.

Coping and support

You may feel distressed because of the cancer diagnosis. But, you should find ways to cope with the disease and the treatment for better outcomes and good quality-of-life.

Learn about the disease and the treatment options available, so that you can make decisions for your care. You may need physical and emotional support when you are in the hospital or after returning home. So, keep your family and friends close and make them understand your condition.

Risk factors

The risk factors for the bone cancer are still unclear, but according to the previous studies the risk increases if you have undergone extensive radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Children who have a history of hereditary retinoblastoma and hereditary defects of bones are also at a risk of osteosarcoma. In older adults, Paget’s disease increases the risk of bone cancer. However, some people without risk factors may develop cancer whereas others who have risk factors may not develop cancer.

The diagnosis begins with a review of your medical and family history. Your doctor also recommends other tests such as:

Bone scan: A radioactive material (a form of liquid) is injected into the vein. The material collects in the affected bone and makes it detectable by the scanner for the production of an image.

X-ray: This test helps to detect the extent of damage occurred to the bone. This test doesn’t provide enough information to confirm the diagnosis but can assist your doctor to decide further investigations to be performed.

Other imaging tests: Computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and positron emission tomography (PET) scan helps to know the spread of bone cancer to other tissues and the stage of cancer.

Biopsy: In this procedure, a sample of affected tissue is removed for laboratory testing. This test helps to determine the presence of malignant cells and also the type of cancer.

The bone cancer treatments are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. The treatment depends on type, stage, age, and physical condition.

Surgery:

It is the leading therapy for bone cancer. The goal of the therapy is to remove the bone cancer completely from the body. The surgery is performed in different ways depending on the involvement of bone tissue.

Surgery by sparing the limb – If your surgeon can remove the bone cancer without affecting nerves and other tissue, then the limb is saved, and the bone is removed. Your doctor replaces the removed bone with a metal prosthesis (an artificial device).

Surgery without affecting limbs – If cancer affects bones other than bones of arms and legs, then your surgeon removes bone and the surrounding tissue. Your surgeon will replace the removed bone with a bone of another part or a metal prosthesis.

Surgery by removing a limb – If cancer affects the complicated part of bone, then your surgeon amputates the part or all the bone. Then, an artificial limb is fitted in the same place. But, this procedure is less common as other treatments are effective to treat cancer.

Chemotherapy :

Chemotherapy is the drug treatment which is given orally or intravenously to kill cancer cells throughout the body. This therapy is effective in cancers such as Ewing’s sarcoma, where as less effective in the case of chondrosarcoma. Chemotherapy can also be given to treat cancers that are spread to another part of the body.

Radiation therapy :

Usually, radiation therapy is given along with chemotherapy before surgery to avoid amputation. This therapy also kills cancer cells that may be left behind after surgery.