Bone pain from cancer can be due to any type of cancer that forms or spreads in the bone. It may be due to primary bone cancer or secondary bone cancer. Secondary bone cancer, also known as metastatic bone cancer, is the one that has spread (metastasized) from another organ to the bone. Primary bone cancer is true bone cancer, which means that the cancer originated in the bone itself.
Whatever be the case, bone pain from cancer may be aching, throbbing, or stabbing in nature. It starts suddenly and worsens at night or due to activities; for example, if cancer is in the bones of the leg, jogging can bring on the pain. With time, as the cancer spreads in the whole bone or deeper, the pain becomes persistent and does not go away. Other signs and symptoms of bone cancer include:
- Swelling and tenderness in the affected bone
- Fracture in the weaker areas of bone after a minor trauma
- Numbness and tingling (in cancer of the spine)
- Unexplained weight loss
What causes bone cancer?
What exactly causes primary bone cancer is unknown. However, doctors have recognized certain factors that can increase your risk of getting it. These include:
- Inherited genetic syndromes: These syndromes are passed through families and include:
- Paget disease of the bone: This disease most common in adults older than 50 years. Paget disease is a chronic condition of the skeleton that results in deformed and brittle bones.
- Radiation therapy for cancer: Radiation therapy taken for any cancer increases the risk of bone cancer in the future.
How is bone cancer diagnosed?
Doctors generally rule out all other conditions associated with bone pain before they reach the diagnosis of bone cancer. To know the location and size of the tumor, they will order imaging tests, such as:
- Bone scan
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
A bone biopsy will confirm the bone cancer. Also, it will let the doctor know what type of bone cancer it is and how aggressive it is. A biopsy is a procedure of removing pieces of tissue from the suspected bone. This can be done via a needle inserted into the skin to reach the bone or via surgery that involves making an incision through the skin to remove the tissue sample from the bone.
What is the treatment of bone cancer?
The treatment of bone cancer varies with people. Doctors need to consider certain factors before deciding on a treatment plan. These include:
The treatment of bone cancer involves surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Depending on the factors mentioned above, doctors may plan surgery and administer chemotherapy or radiation therapy after the surgery. Sometimes, only surgery or surgery along with chemotherapy may also be planned.
Radiation therapy involves passing a beam of high-energy waves through the cancerous area of the bone. This therapy destroys the tumor and shrinks it.
Chemotherapy uses strong anticancer drugs, delivered intravenously (IV) or given in the form of pills to kill cancer cells. It may only work for certain types of bone cancer and not for others.
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American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Bone Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/bone-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html