Bone cancer, which is one of the rarest types of cancer, happens when the bone cells start dividing uncontrollably. As the cancer progresses, the functioning of the bones is severely hampered. Bone cancer can be distinguished into primary and secondary bone cancer.
When cancer forms within bones, it is classified as primary bone cancer. Examples of primary bone cancer include Osteosarcoma, Ewing Sarcoma, Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma and Chondrosarcoma. In cases where cancer originated from another part of the body, has spread to the bone, it gets classified as secondary bone cancer.
Bone cancers are classified based on the location where the cancer begins:
Osteosarcoma: It forms from the immature bone cells, which normally become healthy bone tissues. It is the most common type of bone cancer and is largely seen among children and young adults.
Chondrosarcoma: It is the cancer of the cartilage and is more common among adults. This is the second most common type of bone cancer.
Ewing Sarcoma: This type of cancer mostly affects the bones and the soft tissues surrounding it. It commonly occurs in bones of legs, pelvis, ribs, arms and spine.
Early detection is the key to treat various types of bone cancers successfully.
The most common symptom of cancerous tumours in bone is pain, which gradually increases over time with the creation of bone lesions. Other key symptoms include:
Many patients will not experience any symptoms making the prognosis difficult. The only giveaway would be a painless mass which, upon further tests could confirm bone cancer. Some bone tumours may weaken the structure of the bone causing pathologic fractures.
Although bone cancer does not have a clearly defined cause, researchers have identified several factors that increase the likelihood of developing these tumours.
Myeloma, a type of white blood cell which produces antibodies, has a probability of multiplying unusually or releases too much protein (immunoglobulin) into the bones and blood, giving rise to bone cancer.
Osteosarcoma occurs more frequently in people who have had high-dose external radiation therapy or treatment with certain anticancer drugs.
A small number of bone cancers are due to heredity. For example, children who have had hereditary retinoblastoma (an uncommon cancer of the eye inherited by a faulty gene) are at a higher risk of developing osteosarcoma.
It is also observed individuals who have hereditary defects of bones or metal implant to correct fractures, are more likely to develop osteosarcoma.
The following groups have a higher chance of developing bone cancer:
The doctor may order a blood test to identify the cause of the cancer. The patient will then be referred to a bone specialist (orthopaedic surgeon) to examine the bone tumour.
The following diagnostic tests may be ordered:
The options on treatment for bone cancer depends on several factors, such as what type of bone cancer it is, where it is located, how aggressive it is, and whether it is localized or spread. There are typically 4 stages of bone cancer and based on the staging made by the specialists, various treatment plans are devised.
Some of the latest bone cancer treatment options that available are:
Surgery: In this form of bone cancer treatment, the aim is to remove the tumour completely along with some of the bone tissue that surrounds it. Limb sparing surgery, also known as limb-salvage surgery means that surgical intervention occurs without having to amputate the limb. During the leg or arm treatment, the surgeon may take some bone from another part of the body to replace lost bone (bone graft), or an artificial bone may be put in. In some cases, especially with advanced and aggressive cancers, however, amputation of a limb may be necessary during treatment.
Radiation Therapy: It is also known as radiotherapy, radiation oncology and XRT. Approximately 40% of patients of all types of cancer undergo some kind of radiotherapy. It involves the use of beams of high-energy X-rays or radiation particles to destroy cancer cells for a certain duration based on treatment. Radiotherapy works by damaging the DNA inside the tumour cells, destroying their ability to reproduce. This type of treatment is recommended for Metastatic bone cancer treatment.
Radiotherapy can be used for different reasons:
Chemotherapy: It is the use of chemicals (medication) to treat disease, specifically for the destruction of cancer cells. During the treatment, the cytotoxic medication prevents cancer cells from dividing and growing.
In general, chemotherapy has 4 possible goals: