We have all been affected by cancer in some way, whether we've battled it firsthand or supported someone else in their fight. There are a variety of cancers to be dealt with, but here is what you need to know about cancer of the bone.
Primary bone cancer (cancer that begins within the bone) is rare, accounting for less than one percent of all cancers. Although the exact cause is unknown, doctors know that bone cancer can be linked to heredity and those who have previously received a high dose of radiation treatment. There are also instances when bone metastasis (when the cells do not originate in the bone but spread from the primary tumor to the bone) occurs. This occurrence is much more common and equally as serious.
The most common symptoms of bone cancer include pain, swelling, fractures (due to the weakening of bone), weight loss, and fatigue. Bone cancers can be separated into different categories based on where
- Osteosarcoma – develops in the bone cells of the legs and arms and occurs most often in children and young adults
- Chondrosarcoma – develops in the cartilage cells and often occurs in people over the age of 20
- Ewing's sarcoma – develops in the bones, tissues, and/or muscles and occurs most often in children and teenagers
When seeking a diagnosis, doctors ask patients about their personal and family medical history and perform a physical examination. They also may order laboratory or other diagnostic tests such as biopsies, x-rays, bone scans, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans. There are a variety of treatment options available for those who receive a bone cancer diagnosis.
- Surgery is the most common treatment, involving the removal of entire tumors.
- Chemotherapy is the use of cancer-fighting drugs to destroy the infected cells.
- Radiation Therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays designed to kill cancerous cells.
- Targeted Therapy is a particular type of chemotherapy that attacks the inner workings of cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells alone.