Bone Cancer Overview (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
In this Article
- What is bone cancer? What is metastatic bone cancer?
- Who is at risk for bone cancer?
- What causes bone cancer?
- What are the signs and symptoms of bone cancer?
- What are the different types of bone cancer?
- What kinds of bone cancer occur in children?
- What tests are used to diagnose bone cancer?
- What is the treatment for bone cancer?
- How is bone cancer pain managed?
- What is the prognosis for bone cancer?
- Can bone cancer be prevented?
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
What causes bone cancer?
As with other cancers, there is no one cause of bone cancer. In general, cancers arise when pathways that control normal cell growth and proliferation are disrupted, allowing abnormal cells to divide and grow uncontrollably. A number of hereditary and environmental factors are likely involved in the development of bone cancers.
What are the signs and symptoms of bone cancer?
Pain is the most common symptom of bone cancer. The pain may begin at certain times, often at night, or with physical activity and tends to worsen over time. Sometimes, the pain may be present for years before the affected person seeks treatment. Other cases of bone cancer are discovered incidentally when X-rays or imaging studies are performed for another reason. A mass, swelling, or lump is sometimes felt around the area of a bone cancer. Bone fractures may also occur at the site of the bone tumor (including benign tumors as well as cancers) because the underlying bone has weakened. Other less common symptoms can result from compression or disruption of nerves and blood vessels in the affected area. These symptoms may include numbness, tingling, tenderness, or a decrease in blood flow (coldness, weakened pulse).
What are the different types of bone cancer?
There are several different types of bone cancer that can affect different patient populations and they are often treated differently. Knowing the precise type of bone cancer is important to develop a customized management and treatment plan for the specific patient. Some of the most common types of bone cancer are discussed in the following section.
Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer. Osteosarcoma occurs most commonly in teenagers and young adults and is more common in males. Osteosarcoma in young people tends to develop at the ends of long bones in areas of active bone growth, often around the knee, either at the end of the femur (thigh bone) or the proximal part of the tibia (shin bone). The next most common location is in the bone of the upper arm, but it is possible for an osteosarcoma to develop in any bone. Depending on the appearance of the tumor cells under the microscope, there are several different subtypes of osteosarcoma.
Chondrosarcoma is the second most common bone cancer. It arises from cartilage cells. It is more common in people older than 40 years of age. It may be either rapidly-growing and aggressive or slow-growing. Chondrosarcoma is most commonly found in the bones of the hips and pelvis.
Ewing's sarcomas, sometimes referred to as the Ewing's sarcoma family of tumors (ESFTs), are an aggressive form of bone cancer that is most common in children aged 4 to 15. It is more common in males than in females, and it is extremely rare in African American children. The most common location for Ewing's sarcoma is the middle portion of the long bones of the arms and legs.
Pleomorphic sarcoma (malignant fibrous histiocytoma) of bone
Pleomorphic sarcoma is a tumor formerly referred to as malignant fibrous histiocytoma or MFH. This term is still used frequently. Pleomorphic sarcomas are typically tumors of the soft tissues, but in up to 5% of cases they may arise in the bone. Pleomorphic sarcomas typically occur in adults and can be found anywhere in the body.
Fibrosarcoma is an uncommon type of bone cancer. It is most commonly arises in adults behind the knee.
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