Bone cancer is usually seen in children. If the cancer cells originate in the bone cells it is Primary bone cancer. If the cancer cells spread from elsewhere then it is Secondary bone cancer or metastasis. Common cancers that spread to bones are Lung, Breast and Prostate cancers. Primary bone cancers are less common when compared to metastatic secondary bone cancer.
What are the causes of bone cancer?
The specific causes of the cancer are not yet clear but there are a few risk factors that may lead to it. These can be hereditary factors like Paget’s disease of bone, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, and Diamond-Blackfan anemia etc. Bone cancer may also be triggered by bone fractures and inserting metal rods on the fractures. Previous radiation therapy and chemotherapy for any cancer and gene mutation can also lead to bone cancer.
What are the symptoms of bone cancer?
The symptoms may vary for various types of bone cancer. However, there are a few common symptoms. Pain in the bones is the most common symptom of bone cancer. The cancer also weakens bones which can then be easily fractured. Weight loss, fatigue and swelling and tenderness around the affected area are some of the symptoms of bone cancer.
What are the types of bone cancer?
There are several types of bone cancer which have to be treated differently. But there are three most common types.
Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer which occurs in adolescents and young adults. This cancer occurs in the areas of active bone growth like at the end of the bones, knees, end of thigh bones, and bone in the arms (humerus). This cancer has further sub-types depending on the location of the tumour.
Chondrosarcoma: This cancer occurs in the cartilage cells that are attached to bones. This cancer can either grow slowly or aggressively. This type of cancer usually occurs in adults aged above 40 years. It is rarely seen in youngsters.
Ewing sarcoma: Ewing Sarcoma is one of the most aggressive types of bone cancer. It usually occurs in the mid-portion of long bones in the arms and legs, soft tissues of the bone. It is common in children aged between 4-15 years.
How to detect Bone Cancer?
There are several kinds of tests that are used to detect the size and location of the tumour. The test can include bone scans, MRI, CT, X-rays etc. There can also be biopsies, where a part of the tumour tissue is taken and tested.
The stages of bone cancers can be determined by the size of the tumour, speed of the growth of the tumour, number of affected bones and the spread of cancer to the other parts of the body. The treatment depends on the stage of bone cancer the patient is in.
What are the treatment options for Bone Cancer?
The treatment options are based on the type of bone cancers, stage of the cancer and other factors. Like other cancer types there are three options for bone cancer. The tumour is removed surgically along with a part of the bone. The bone is replaced by a bone from other part or by a metal or hard plastic. If the tumour has spread to a huge part of the bone, amputation of the limb may be necessary. However, with latest advancements amputation is not common anymore. Chemotherapy is used to destroy the cancer cells within the body. The drugs are targeted towards cancer cells and mostly administered intravenously. Radiation therapy is where the cancer cells are exposed to high-power energy breams which destroy the cancer cells. Sometimes the methods are used in combination. For instance, radiation is done before a surgery to shrink the tumour so that it can be removed easily.
What are the precautions to be taken for Bone Cancer?
Being aware of the symptoms of bone cancer can be a great help. Being alert and regular check-ups can help in early detection of bone cancer. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being aware of one’s family history can always help remove the threat of bone cancer.