What is bone cancer?
Bone cancer occurs when there is an abnormal multiplication of the bone cells. It can arise from any bone in the body. The most commonly affected bones are the pelvis (hip bone) and long bones in the arms and legs such as the humerus and femur bone. Bone cancer is rare. Noncancerous bone tumors are more common than cancerous tumors. Some types of bone cancer affect adults, whereas others are common in children. Bone cancer destroys the normal bone and can spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). There are various treatment options for bone cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
What are the types of bone cancer?
There are two main types of bone cancer:
- Primary bone cancer
- Secondary bone cancer
Primary bone cancer
Primary bone cancer is also called sarcoma. It starts in the bone. Some of the most common types of primary bone cancer are as follows:
- Osteosarcoma: It usually arises from around the knees and upper arm. Young adults and teenagers are usually affected.
- Ewing’s sarcoma: It occurs between the ages of 5 and 20 years. The ribs, pelvis, leg, and upper arm are usually affected, including the soft tissue around the bones.
- Chondrosarcoma: It occurs between the ages of 40 and 70 years. The hip, shoulders, leg, and arm are usually affected. It arises from the cartilage cells.
Secondary bone cancer
This occurs when cancer starts in other parts of the body and spreads to the bone. This is also called metastatic cancer.
Cancer that commonly spread to the bone are as follows:
What are the causes of bone cancer?
The exact cause of bone cancer is unknown. Some factors increase the risk of bone cancer, which are as follows:
What are the symptoms of bone cancer?
The common symptoms of bone cancer are as follows:
How is bone cancer diagnosed?
The doctor performs a complete physical assessment and complete blood and radiological assessment (X-ray, computed tomography [CT] scan, magnetic resonance imaging [MRI], positron emission tomography [PET]/whole body scan and bone scan). A minimally invasive, diagnostic procedure called a biopsy can confirm the diagnosis and also assess if the cancer is primary or secondary. During a biopsy, a tumor sample is obtained with a needle or through a small cut in the skin and examined under the microscope.
How is bone cancer treated?
There are various treatment options for bone cancer, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Treatment may involve one or a combination of treatment modalities. The treatment plan is based on the type and extent of bone cancer. Common treatments options include the following:
- Limb salvage surgery: It is the surgical removal of part of the affected bone without the surrounding muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. A metallic implant is used in place of the bone removed.
- Amputation: If the tumor is large and affects the surrounding tissues, nerves, and blood vessels, the whole limb may be removed and replaced with a prosthetic limb.
- Radiation therapy: This targets and selectively kills cancer cells and shrinks tumors using radiation.
- Chemotherapy: The tumor cells are killed with cancer medication.
- Targeted therapy: This treatment uses medication to target certain genetic, protein, or other changes in and around cancer cells.
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