Bone cancer is a type of cancer in which a person’s bone cells grow uncontrollably. It is a rare type of cancer. Bone tumors are mostly benign. These cells have a limited potential of spreading to other body parts. Yet, they can weaken our bones increasing the risk of broken bones. This cancer primarily targets the longer bones of our bodies. These can be bones of our legs, arms as well as pelvis area. The tumor develops in the bone tissues, forming bone cancer. When it starts affecting other body parts, it becomes metastatic or secondary bone cancer.
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Bone cancers are of two types. These are primary and secondary bone cancer.
Primary Bone cancer
Here the tumor is either cancerous or benign. Benign tumors are usually not harmful and limited to a specific location. Cancerous or malignant tumors are highly dangerous. They can spread to other areas and infect faraway organs. They are also difficult to cure. Primary bone tumors are divided into these categories:
Osteosarcoma: The cells responsible for bone formation and attack in this cancer. These cancer cells are called osteoblasts. Teenagers and children are more prone to this cancer. It affects children between ages 10 years and 19 years.
Chondrosarcoma: It is a bone cancer type prominent among adults. It starts from our connective tissues, lining the joints. The tumor then spreads across the bone and other parts. The affected connective tissues are mostly cartilage.
Ewing’s Sarcoma: This is cancer found in the chest wall, thigh bone, or pelvic region. It can also damage the surrounding bones and soft tissues. Teenagers between ages 10 years and 19 years are prone to this cancer. This cancer is among the most common bone cancer types among children.
Chordoma: This cancer targets our spinal cord. It damages the skull and spinal cord in adults.
Secondary Bone Cancers
This type of bone cancer is more prevalent among adults. It has the potential of spreading to other body parts. Yet, it is found mostly in our bones. The cancer results in pain, hypercalcemia, and fractures. The risk becomes higher if a person has prostate or breast cancer.
The major symptoms of bone cancer are:
The causes of bone cancer are unknown. Some cases are linked with high exposure to radiation and family history. DNA alterations can result in the development of this cancer. If the gene controlling cell division mutates, it can cause cancer. Gene mutations can create oncogenes. It can also switch off the cells that suppress tumors. These factors result in bone cancer.
Risk factors can increase the chances of advancing a specific disease. Smoking can be a factor in increasing the risk of cancer. However, it can be avoided or changed by changing one’s lifestyle. Yet, some factors cannot be changed. These can be age or hereditary factors.
Having a risk factor is not an implication of cancer. A person may have one or a few risk factors without developing bone cancer. However, those with cancer might not show any risk factors known to us.
Some major cancer-causing risk factors are:
Heredity: Genetic disorders are often passed from one generation to another. People with a history of cancer in their families have a higher risk of acquiring it. Yet the genes linked to these diseases are not found.
Previous cancer treatment: The risk of bone cancer increases for people undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Patients getting radiation treatment are also more prone to bone cancer.
Paget Disease: This bone disease affects people above age 50. Aberrant bone tissues are formed in this condition. This results in thick, brittle, and weak bones that are more prone to fracture. While the disease is not any cancer type, it can result in osteosarcoma.
Pre-existing bone tumor: Cartilage or bone tumor can be the result of genetic diseases. These tumors can increase the chances of developing bone cancer.
Bone Marrow Transplant: Bone marrow transplant is associated with the development of cancer like osteosarcoma.
Bone cancer diagnosis comprises several biopsies and imaging tests. These can be:
Physical examination: It is important for proper evaluation. Your doctor will collect information about symptoms such as fatigue, pain, or movement difficulty. Once the cancer is confirmed, your doctor will recommend other tests.
Imaging Tests: The tests identify the location and size of the tumors. They also determine the tumor spread. Common imaging tests can be:
Biopsy: Doctors recommend a biopsy to determine the tumor stage, its spread, and division speed.
Bone cancer treatment involves radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, targeted therapy, and cryosurgery.
Surgery: Surgery removes the cancer cells altogether. The aim is to free the bone tissues from the tumor. Surgery can also include taking bone from one part and replacing the lost part.
Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs are used in chemotherapy. The process can be oral or intravenous route. The drugs kill the tumor cells. Chemotherapy is also used in conjunction with surgery.
Radiation therapy: In radiation therapy, a high-energy beam is used to kill the cancer cells. It can be X-rays or radiation rays. The therapy usually precedes surgery. Radiation therapy shrinks the cancer cells, improving the surgery outcome. Radiation therapy is usually conducted along with chemotherapy or surgery.
Cryosurgery: This technique is conducted to avoid any surgical procedure. This procedure involves freezing the cancer cells. Liquid nitrogen is used for the procedure.
Targeted therapy: Here designer drugs are used. These drugs interact with cancer-causing molecules.