Bone tumors are comparatively uncommon, constituting only 0.5% of the total world cancer incidence. Bone cancer, a disease characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells of the bone. It occurs when a tumour, or abnormal mass of tissue, forms in a bone. Bone cancer is rarer than most other types of cancer, the risk is highest for those between 10 and 30 years of age, particularly during a teenage growth spurt. This could mean a link between rapid bone growth and the risk of developing tumors. The risk does decrease with middle age but again rises in older adults.
Types of Bone Cancer
- Primary bone cancers are the most serious of all bone cancers. They form directly in the bones or surrounding tissue, such as cartilage.
- Cancer can also spread, or metastasize, from another part of body to bones. This is known as secondary bone cancer, and this type is more common than primary bone cancer.
- Common types of primary bone cancers include:
- Osteosarcoma- It arises in new tissue in growing bones. This is the most common type of bone cancer. It occurs most often in teens.
- Chondrosarcoma- It arises in cartilage.
- Ewing’s sarcoma- It may arise in immature nerve tissue in the bone marrow.
While doctors are yet to research the exact reason for bone cancer, certain risk factors have been associated with bone cancers.
- Having a family history of cancer, especially bone cancer
- Having received radiation treatment or therapy in the past
- Paget’s disease of bone, which is a condition that causes the bones to break down and then grow back abnormally
- Currently or previously having had multiple tumors in the cartilage, which is the connective tissue in the bone.
Signs & Symptoms
The symptoms and signs of bone cancer depend on where and how large the cancer is. Common symptoms and signs include:
- Pain in the bone and swelling. This is sometimes worse at night.
- Unexplained fractures due to weakened bones
- Weight loss
- Difficulty in movements
Bone cancer is usually diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms, physical examination, imaging, and other tests.
- Physical Exam-In cases of bone cancer, the physical examination that a doctor performs will be essentially normal except perhaps for the “soft tissue mass” that may be felt at the primary site of cancer. This might be detectable as a mound or swelling extending out from the bone.
- Biopsy- In the case of a bone biopsy, a small piece of the tumor will be removed and examined under a microscope. The biopsy will reveal if cancerous cells are present in the bone.
- Imaging tests – Radiological imaging is one of the best early, non-invasive methods of a cancer diagnosis. These images can be made through various ways such as X-ray, Ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, bone scan, and PET scan. Imaging test can help show the spread of osteosarcomas to the lungs, other bones, or other parts of the body, and can also help in seeing how well the cancer is responding to treatment.
- Chemotherapy- Primarily, chemotherapy uses the drugs to destroy the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy drugs are usually delivered through a vein. While side effects remain, there is an attempt to research drugs that will minimize adverse effects, which are, nausea, weakness, fatigue, bowel-related issues, and blood-related issues etc.
- Radiation Therapy- In Radiation therapy, the cancer cells are destroyed using high-powered energy radiations. Radiation therapy is used in patients with bone cancer that cannot be removed through surgery. After surgery, radiation therapy may be used to kill any remaining cancer cells
- Surgery– The goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous tumor completely. In most cases, this involves special techniques to remove the tumor in one single piece, along with a small portion of healthy tissue that surrounds it.
- Targeted Therapies- Targeted uses drugs to treat cancers but is different from conventional chemotherapy. It works by targeting specific proteins and genes to impede the growth and spread of cancer.
Follow up after treatment, you will need check-ups every 3–12 months for several years to confirm that cancer hasn’t come back and to help you manage any treatment side effects.