Bone Cancer Usually affects the long bones that make up arms and legs
Bone cancer is very uncommon, and usually affects the long bones of the body. There are different types of bone cancer. Bone cancers originate and spread in the bones only, those cancers that originate at other parts of the body, and spread (metastasize) to bones are not considered bone cancers.
There are three types of bone cancer: Osteosarcoma – seen in children and young adults, begins in bone cells; Chondrosarcoma – occurs in middle aged and older adults, begins in cartilage cells; Ewing’s Sarcoma – begins in pelvis, legs or arms of children and young adults.
Bone cancer is characterized by bone pain, swelling and tenderness, broken bone, fatigue, unintended weight loss. During night, the person may feel light to heavy bone pain at a particular area. While walking also, the person may experience pain at a specific location of the bone.
Pain in the bones may be followed by swelling, only after few weeks. Cancer in the neck bones may cause a lump at the back of the throat that causes pain while swallowing food, and makes it hard to breathe. People with bone cancer may also experience numbness and tingling in the spine and nerves.
It is not clear, why bone cancer occurs in some people. The established cause for bone cancer is the error in cell’s DNA which leads to cell growth and division in an uncontrolled way. The accumulated cells form a mass or tumor and spread to other parts of the body.
Risk Factors & Complications
Exact reasons of why bone cancer occurs in some people are not known. However, certain factors may pose risk of bone cancer. First, it may be due to inherited genetic syndrome, where risk of cancer is passed from one generation to another. Bone problems like Paget’s disease may also lead to bone cancer. When a person is exposed to large doses of radiation, it may result in the risk of bone cancer.
Test & Diagnosis
When the patient approaches the doctor for pain in the bones, the doctor poses questions viz. periodicity and severity of bone pain. The doctor also makes a close observation of the pain area which may be characterized by a swelling. If the doctor finds it needful, he may recommend for one or more imaging tests viz. Bone scan, computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, position emission tomography and x-ray.
Biopsy is also recommended by the doctor, to know the stage of cancer. Biopsy (removing a sample of tissue) is done either by inserting a needle through the skin and into the tumor, and by surgery to remove a tissue sample. The sample of the tissue extracted is sent to the lab for cancer testing. On a note of caution, biopsies should not interfere with future surgery.
Testing and diagnosis reveals the stage of bone cancer, and makes it easy for the doctors to follow the best treatment options.
Stage 1 – cancer limited to bone, Stage 2. though cancer is limited to the bone, it turns to be very aggressive, Stage 3 – occurs at two or more places of the same bone, and Stage 4 – cancer has spread beyond the bone to other areas of the body.
Depending on the stage of the bone cancer, the right treatment process is recommended. Also, different bone cancers respond to different kinds of treatments. The treatment for bone cancers may be any one – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It may be a mix of two, surgery and chemotherapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Surgery process includes partial removal or complete removal of the cancer affected limb. In any case, the removed bone is replaced with bone from another area of the body or implanting a special metal prosthesis.
Chemotherapy involves administering cancer drugs intravenously. Chemotherapy is prescribed when cancer has spread from bones to other parts of the body. Radiation therapy (high powered beams of energy) is advised when bone cancer cannot be removed completely by surgery. Radiotherapy kills cancer cells that may be left behind after surgery.
Read more about symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of bone cancer.
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