About Bone Cancer

Bone cancers are rare cancers that occur when the bone cells have genetic changes, resulting in abnormal and uncontrollable growth. Though this cancer can begin in any bone of the body, it usually affects the pelvis or long bones found in the arms and legs. Bone cancers can be benign and malignant, with benign ones being more common. Bone cancers usually occur in children but may sometimes affect adults. Primary bone cancers begin in the bone, and secondary bone cancers usually result from spreading cancer cells from other parts of the body. There are different types of bone cancers, but the four most common ones include- osteosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, chondrosarcoma and spindle cell sarcoma. Bone cancer life expectancy or five-year survival rate is around 70%, and chondrosarcoma in adults is approximately 80%. Bone cancer treatment options depend upon multiple factors.

Symptoms

Commonly occurring symptoms of bone cancer are:

 

  • Pain that progresses and worsens over time
  • Unexplained swelling or tenderness in the affected area
  • Difficulty in moving
  • Fatigue
  • Weakened bones with susceptibility to fracture
  • Unexplained weight loss

 

In advanced cases of bone cancer, some people may experience the following symptoms:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Tenderness
  • Cold hand or foot with weak pulse due to reduced blood flow to the extremities

 

Contact your doctor immediately if you or your child experience bone pain that frequently comes and goes, worsens at night, or isn’t reduced with painkillers. 

Diagnosis

Since bone cancer is rare, diagnosing it can be challenging. After performing a thorough physical evaluation, your doctor may recommend you to undergo a blood test to determine levels of alkaline phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase, both of which are higher in people with sarcoma. X-ray of the affected area may be advised to determine the location and size of the tumour. If bone cancer is detected in an x-ray, imaging tests like bone scans, CT and PET scans, and MRI are prescribed as they provide detailed information about the location of cancer, its size, nature, spread and stage. A biopsy is performed to confirm the type of cells in the bone cancer.

Treatment

Bone cancer treatment options are decided based on your cancer type, its stage at the time of diagnosis, and your overall health. Since different bone cancers respond differently to treatments, your doctor and healthcare team will be able to devise the best plan for you.

 

Treatment options for bone cancer are:

 

  • Surgery

In the early stages of bone cancer, surgery is used to remove the cancerous tissue altogether. Some healthy surrounding tissue may be removed with the cancerous tissue to prevent a recurrence. If the entire bone needs to be removed, it is usually replaced with an artificial one. 

 

Advanced stage 3 and stage 4 bone cancer that has spread to other parts of the body are hard to treat. Treatments provided help relieve symptoms, prolong one’s life and improve their quality of living.

 

  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy and bone cancer are often spoken about pertaining to treating the condition and involve the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This treatment is recommended for people with Ewing’s sarcoma and those just diagnosed with osteosarcoma. 

 

  • Radiation therapy

High-energy radiation is used to kill cancer cells. It may be combined with surgery and chemotherapy to eliminate cancer cells.

 

Other treatments that may be effective in treating bone cancers are cryosurgery and targeted therapy.

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