Bone Cancer: Symptoms and Treatment

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Bone cancer is a serious condition that destroys healthy bone cells. The severity of the condition largely depends on what type of bone cancer you have, though it’s important to note that it’s most common in adolescents and children.

Types of Bone Cancer

A few of the most common types of bone cancer include the following:

  • Osteosarcoma: This is the most common type of bone cancer and is more likely to affect male children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 25. Typically the condition affects the long bones in your legs and arms, especially near your knees and shoulders. Unfortunately, osteosarcoma is an aggressive type of cancer and often spreads to the lungs.
  • Ewing’s sarcoma: This is another type of aggressive bone cancer common in children between the ages of four and 14.
  • Chondrosarcoma: The second most common type of bone cancer, this condition develops from cells in the cartilage near the hip, pelvis, and shoulder bones.
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH): This is a rare form of cancer that usually develops from soft tissues in your body. When it develops in your bones, doctors treat it similarly to osteosarcoma. The condition usually affects older adults between the ages of 50 and 60.
  • Chordoma: This is another rare form of bone cancer commonly found along the upper or lower portion of your spinal column.

Causes of Bone Cancer 

Like many other types of cancer, the main cause of bone cancer remains unknown. In most cases, cancer results from mutations in your cells. However, there are risk factors to keep an eye out for that may increase your chance of developing bone cancer. For example, osteosarcoma is more common in patients who received prior radiation treatments and chemotherapy medications. It’s also more common in children and adolescents who had prior experience with hereditary retinoblastoma, a type of rare eye cancer.

Symptoms of Bone Cancer

Bone cancer is painful and often begins as a dull ache that worsens over time. Oftentimes, the pain only occurs at certain times of the day in the beginning while performing specific activities. In many cases, the cancer tumor may weaken the bone to the point of fracture, or a lump may develop over the bone and become noticeable through your skin. Other less common symptoms include the following:

  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Chills
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis of Bone Cancer

If you think you may have bone cancer, schedule an appointment with your doctor. During your appointment, your doctor will run through your family and medical history and perform a complete physical exam. By doing this, your doctor can better evaluate the cause of any symptoms you’re experiencing.

Your doctor may also order blood tests and imaging studies, including X-rays and radiographs to help identify and locate abnormalities. If your doctor finds an abnormality, he or she may recommend a biopsy of the bone to determine what type of cancer you have.

Treatment of Bone Cancer

Treatment options for bone cancer vary depending on what type of cancer you have, where it is located, and what stage it’s in. Typically, the main form of treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Doctors usually choose to combine one or more of these options into the patient treatment plan.

Prognosis of Bone Cancer

As cancer treatment continues to evolve, the outlook for patients improves as well. When it comes to the prognosis for bone cancer, recent advancements in the diagnosis and treatment stage are translating into fewer amputations, fewer side effects, and higher survival rates.