It is a rare type of cancer occurring in bones in any part of the body. It can affect your arms, or legs or other parts. Bone cancer starts within the cells that make up a bone. Mostly it occurs elsewhere in the body and slowly spread to the bone. This is called as metastatic cancer. Bone cancer does not affect the blood cells in the bone marrow and is not type of blood cell cancer.
There are some types of cancer that does not belong to bone but they always start developing in the bones. For instance lymphoma is the type of cancer related to immunity cells. They either begin in the bone marrow or in the lymph nodes. Multiple myeloma is another cancer type that starts in the bone marrow.
There would be sharp pain in the affected bone with swelling and tenderness. The bones are prone to break easily causing fractures. It would cause extreme tiredness and loss of weight for the affected person.
Risk Factors :
Children are more likely to develop bone cancers than adults, for reasons unknown. The person is liable to develop bone cancer if he has undergone radiation or chemotherapy for any other disease. Gene mutation involving retinoblastoma gene can increase the risk of bone cancer. Certain hereditary conditions like Li Fraumeni syndrome and Paget’s disease can cause bone cancer.
Bone cancer is believed to be caused by gene mutation in the DNA. Cell mutation takes place in wrong way and they multiply to grow in uninhibited manner thus accumulating mass of tumor cells forming bone cancer. It can also invade nearby tissues and organs of your body.
Bone cancer is of many types and each cancer is given nomenclature depending on the place of origin.
- Osteosarcoma :
It is one of the most prevalent types of bone cancer that affects young adults and teenagers. They begin in the ends of lengthy bones where the bone growth is active. It is largely found in thigh bone or shin bone or upper arms. But it can occur anywhere in the body.
- Chondrosarcoma :
This type of bone cancer begins in the cartilage cells of the bones. It affects middle aged people who are above 45 years. It often attacks the bones of the hips and pelvic region.
- Ewing’s sarcoma :
This rare type of bone cancer affects mostly children of age group 5-15. It affects the mid portion of arms or legs.
- Pleomorphic Sarcoma :
The cancer causing cells belong to soft tissues arising from bones. It can develop on any part of the body.
- Fibrosarcoma :
It is a rare type of bone cancer developing in adults. Among all the types given above, osteosarcoma is more common than other types and develops in children.
Your doctor will analyze the symptoms of bone pain and swelling on the joints. He would request for bone scan and imaging tests like CT or MRI scan or positron emission tomography test. Sometimes your doctor would do a biopsy by cutting a small tissue sample from the affected bone and test it in the lab. He can do it either by inserting a needle into the skin or by surgical procedure by making a small incision on the skin.
Stages of Bone Cancer :
It is necessary to know the right stage of bone cancer for the doctor before starting any treatment.
- Stage 1: Bone cancer is superficial and is of low grade. It can be fully treated.
- Stage 2: Bone cancer of this stage has not spread to neighborhood parts but is of high grade and aggressive.
- Stage 3: At this level, the cancer causing cells has spread to other places of the bone.
- Stage 4: This is the final stage in which bone cancer has spread widely to other areas and vital organs.
Your doctor will consider factors like your age, health condition, and the stage of cancer before giving any treatment.
- Surgery :
Surgery is the first line option for bone cancer. The surgeon would either remove a part of the bone or the entire bone depending on the extent of spreading of cancer. For instance, if the bone cancer has developed on the limb then surgery is done to remove part of the limb or fully by amputation. The person will be fitted with artificial limb to perform daily tasks.
Sometimes the surgeon would spare the limb but removes portion of it and replace it with strong bones of the body from another area. With improved methods of surgery now the bones are spared during surgery or the person will be fitted with artificial metals for carrying out day-to-day tasks.
- Radiation Therapy :
High powered radiation rays are used to destroy the cancer cells. The patient will be lying on the table during the procedure in which beams of radiation are passed at marked points of his body. Often radiation treatment is combined with surgery or chemotherapy so that bones need not be amputated. This method is highly effective in giving relief from intense bone pain and is used for treating advanced stage of bone cancer.
- Chemotherapy :
Chemotherapy is given either in the form of injection (on veins) or as medications. It is done before and after surgery for shrinking a bone to smaller size so that the surgeon can perform the operation easily. It is widely used for treating advance stages of bone cancer.
- Pain Management :
High doses of analgesics are given for managing intense bone pain. NSAID are mostly given for controlling pain due to bone cancer. Prescription drugs like opoids (codeine or morphine or even higher strengths) are given for controlling pain.
The outlook depends on the intensity of bone cancer and the health condition of the patient. Often 70% of the patients (children or adults) affected with bone cancer can survive up to 5 years with proper treatment. 70-80% of the patients with localized osteosarcoma can survive for 5-6 years. In case the bone cancer has spread to other tissues or organs then the survival rate is low (15-30%).
The patient can survive for long years if he/she responds well to treatment options and if the cancer is restricted to arms or legs which can be removed fully during surgery. There is no way you can prevent bone cancer since it is not known what exactly causes it. If you or your loved ones are diagnosed with bone cancer, you can get expert opinion from second doctor and know vital information about your treatment options. Stay connected with your family and friends and you can share your feelings with support groups.