Bone cancer can be distinguished into primary and secondary bone cancer. When cancer spreads within the cells of the bone, it is classified as Primary Bone Cancer. Examples of primary bone cancer include Osteosarcoma, Ewing Sarcoma, Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma and Chondrosarcoma.
In cases where cancer which originated from another part of the body, has spread to the bone, it gets classified as Secondary Bone Cancer.
The most common symptom of cancerous tumours in bone are pain, which gradually increases over time with the creation of bone lesions.
Other symptoms include:
Many patients will not experience any symptoms making the prognosis difficult. The only giveaway would be a painless mass which could confirm bone cancer. Some bone tumours may weaken the structure of the bone causing pathologic fractures.
Although bone cancer does not have a clearly defined cause, researchers have identified several factors that increase the likelihood of developing these tumours.
Myeloma, a type of white blood cell which produces antibodies, has a probability of multiplying unusually or releases too much protein (immunoglobulin) into the bones and blood, giving rise to bone cancer.
Osteosarcoma occurs more frequently in people who have had high-dose external radiation therapy or treatment with certain anticancer drugs. Studies indicate that children are more susceptible to osteosarcoma.
A small number of bone cancers are due to heredity. For example, children who have had hereditary retinoblastoma (an uncommon cancer of the eye inherited by a faulty gene) are at a higher risk of developing osteosarcoma.
It is also observed individuals who have hereditary defects of bones or metal implant to correct fractures, are more likely to develop osteosarcoma.
The following groups have a higher chance of developing bone cancer:
The doctor may order a blood test to identify the cause of the cancer. The patient will then be referred to a bone specialist (orthopaedic surgeon) to examine the bone tumour. The following diagnostic tests may be ordered:
The options on treatment for bone cancer depends on several factors, such as what type of bone cancer it is, where it is located, how aggressive it is, and whether it is localized or spread. There are typically 4 stages of bone cancer which have various treatment options. If the tumour in the bone is of low grade, it is called as Stage 1 Bone Cancer. In case the cancer in the bone is of high-grade, then it is classified as Stage 2 Bone Cancer. A Metastatic bone cancer which has spread to other parts of the bone then it is called Stage 3 Bone Cancer. Advanced cases where it has spread to other parts of body gets classified as called Stage 4 Bone Cancer. Some of the latest bone cancer treatment options that available are:
Surgery – in this form of bone cancer treatment, the aim is to remove the tumour completely along with some of the bone tissue that surrounds it. If some of the cancer is left behind after surgically removing the tumour, it may continue to grow and eventually spread. Limb sparing surgery, also known as limb salvage surgery means that surgical intervention occurs without having to amputate the limb. During the leg or arm treatment, the surgeon may take some bone from another part of the body to replace lost bone (bone graft), or an artificial bone may be put in. In some cases, however, amputation of a limb may be necessary during treatment.
Radiation Therapy – it is also known as radiotherapy, radiation oncology and XRT. Approximately 40% of patients of all types of cancer undergo some kind of radiotherapy. It involves the use of beams of high-energy X-rays or radiation particles to destroy cancer cells for a certain duration based on treatment. Radiotherapy works by damaging the DNA inside the tumour cells, destroying their ability to reproduce. This type of treatment is recommended for Metastatic bone cancer treatment. Radiotherapy can be used for different reasons:
Given the benefits of radiation therapy, the patient must be wary of the side effects during the treatment which ranges from Fatigue, Loss of Appetite & changes in the skin area where it treated. Common skin changes include redness, hair loss, blistering & peeling. There are also instances of low blood counts, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. In special cases where the pain aggravates, it would be advisable to talk to your treatment doctor.
Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals (medication) to treat disease, specifically for the destruction of cancer cells. During the treatment, cytotoxic medication prevents cancer cells from dividing and growing. In general, chemotherapy has 5 possible goals: