Everything is fine as long as the cells in the body divide in a controlled manner. However, when this division becomes uncontrollable, then you have a real problem in your hands. This uncontrolled cell division becomes a major cause of cancer. Therefore, we can’t overlook it. In this article, we are going to cover the types, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of bone cancer.
Bone cancer can begin in any bone of the body. However, it mostly occurs in the pelvis of long bones in the arms and legs. Typically, it makes less than one percent of all types of cancer. Non-cancerous bone tumors are, in fact, more common than cancerous ones.
Some cancers start elsewhere in the body and then shift (metastasize) to bone. We name them after the part where they originate. For example, Breast Cancer usually spreads to the bones. Technically speaking, if this happens, you have bone cancer. However, we would still call it Breast Cancer. Some types primarily occur in children, others in adults. Its most common treatment is surgical treatment. However, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also in use. Now, let us move to the causes of bone cancer.
CAUSES OF BONE CANCER:
We are still unaware of what exactly causes bone cancer. Generally, cancers arise when the normal cells begin to divide uncontrollably, allowing abnormal cells to grow. When this abnormal growth takes place in the bone marrow, it results in bone cancer. A number of hereditary and environmental factors also play their part in its development.
BONE CANCER TYPES:
When bone cancer originates in the bone, we call it Primary Bone Cancer. However, if it spreads to the bone after starting elsewhere, then we name it Secondary Bone Cancer. Generally, there are two are major categories of this cancer:
It is that type of tumor that does not spread and restricts to the site where it originates. Following types fall in the category of benign bone tumor:
- Osteoid Osteoma.
- Aneurysmal Bone Cyst.
- Fibrous Dysplasia Of The Bone.
This type of cancer leaves its original site and infects the surrounding tissues and organs. It is more fatal than the benign tumor. Following are the types of malignant bone tumor:
- Ewing’s Sarcoma.
- Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma.
SYMPTOMS OF BONE CANCER:
Whether the bone cancer is benign or malignant, the early symptoms vary from no symptoms at all to intense bone pain. It is also common that bone cancer might not cause any symptoms at all. For the detection of such cancers, we use different medical techniques like Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
The most common symptoms of bone cancer include:
- Pain and swelling in the affected bone.
- Palpable hard mass in the long bones of limbs.
- Feeling tired or fatigued.
And a few less common symptoms of bone cancer are:
- Unintended weight loss.
- Weak bones leading to fracture.
Doctors generally classify bone tumors into stages to identify its location, to know what it is doing, and to how much extent it is affecting the surroundings:
- Stage One is when bone cancer hasn’t spread from the bone.
- Stage Two is when bone cancer has not spread yet. However, there is a chance it may become invasive and destroy the surrounding tissue.
- Stage Three is when bone cancer has spread to one or more areas of bone and has become invasive.
The survival rate of a patient of bone cancer depends on its type and the extent to which it has spread. The survival rate of this particular cancer is 70 percent in children and adults as well. Usually, the five-year survival rate of bone cancer patients is 80 percent in adults if cancer has not spread. However, if cancer has metastasized from its original site, the survival rate drops down as low as 15 percent to 30 percent.
Doctors use different diagnostic tests to identify the type of cancer in the bone. These are either the blood tests, biopsy, or various imaging tests like CT SCAN, PET SCAN, and MRI. So, without further ado, let us have a look at each of these diagnostic tests in detail.
Generally, blood samples tell us about the type of cancer. For example, people with Ewing sarcoma or Osteosarcoma have higher levels of alkaline phosphate and lactate dehydrogenase in their blood.
An x-ray is a way of creating pictures of the inside of bone using radiations. The bone appears as a denser portion in the X-RAY. This way, the doctors identify the tumor from the X-RAY.
A bone scan uses a radioactive tracer to look inside the bone. The tracer is injected into the veins of the bones. The healthy bones appear lighter, and those affected with cancer stand out on the image.
COMPUTERIZED TOMOGRAPHY (CT) SCAN:
A CT scan takes the images of the inside of the body using x-rays. This test takes images of the bone from different angles. The computer combines these images into a detailed three-dimensional image, which shows any abnormality or tumor.
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI):
It uses magnetic fields, not x-rays, to create detailed images of the inside of the bone. It can even measure the size of the tumor.
POSITRON EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY OR PET-CT SCAN:
In a PET-CT scan, the doctors inject an organic substance into the body. The cancerous cells usually consume the most energy, so they actively take up the sugar substance, and in this way, physicians are able to detect them.
Basically, a biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for microscopic examination. Other tests just suggest if the cancer is present, but the biopsy makes an in-depth diagnosis. It also tells about the site of tumor as well as its size.
Once the diagnostic tests are done, your doctor reviews all the test results and checks if the diagnosis yielded a positive or nil result. If the diagnosis proves to be positive for cancer, the doctors perform further tests to identify its stage.
BONE CANCER TREATMENT:
There isn’t a specific treatment for bone cancer. The treatment of bone cancer depends on the stage of cancer, age of the patient, his overall health, as well as the size and location of the tumor. It can be treated by medications, surgery, radiation therapy, or any alternative therapy.
Following are the medicines that physicians use for the treatment of bone cancer:
- Chemotherapy drugs for multiples myeloma.
- Pain medications for relieving inflammation.
- Bisphosphonates to prevent bone loss and also to protect the bone structure.
- Cytotoxic drugs to stop the growth of cancerous cells.
The doctor may also recommend radiation therapy, which kills the cancerous cells. The therapy uses high energy radiations or beams to kill the cancerous cells. Since, radiations cannot completely destroy the cancerous cells in one dose, surgeons require multiple doses of radiations to eliminate them. These higher doses can become hazardous for the other organs or tissues. That’s why this is not recommended treatment in most types of bone cancer.
Surgery is the most effective treatment for most types of bone cancer. Doctors may surgically remove the cancerous cells or affected tissues. The main focus of surgeons is to remove the cancer cells altogether. It is very crucial to remove all the cancerous cells during the surgery. It’s because if some cancerous cells are left behind, they have the ability to grow back quickly and make a new tumor. To ensure that the tumor does not grow back, doctors usually remove all the cancerous cells as well as some of the healthy tissue around them.
Alternative therapies include herbal treatments, which your doctor may add up to your care plan. However, you should be cautious while considering these alternative treatments as they can interfere with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Bone cancer is a fatal disorder, whose actual causes are still unknown. So, there aren’t any specific preventive measures or lifestyle habits that can prevent it. There are different types of bone cancer that we have discussed earlier. Usually, all types of cancer show no symptoms in their early stage. Different diagnosis methods are available to identify the exact type of bone tumor. One can surely prevent its spread if treated earlier to stop it from damaging the surrounding tissues and organs of the body. It’s because it can be very fatal once it spreads to the surrounding organs, which leaves only 15 % to 30 % chances of survival. Still, there are many people who lead a healthy and full life after the treatment of bone cancer.