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What is Bone Cancer?

A type of cancer that initiates with the uncontrolled growth of bone cells is Bone Cancer. Bone cancer is relatively a rare condition. Mostly bone tumours are benign. They do not have the potential to spread to the other parts of the body. However, it can weaken your bones resulting in broken bones. Bone cancer primarily affects the long bones of the legs and arms or the pelvis region. The development of cancer that initiates in bone tissues is primary bone cancer. The effect of primary bone cancer in other parts of the body is secondary or metastatic bone cancers.

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Types

Bone cancer is categorized into two types are, i.e., primary bone cancers and secondary bone cancers.

Primary Bone Cancers

The bone tumours are either benign or cancerous. Benign indicates that these do not have the potential to spread and are not usually too harmful. On the contrary, malignant or cancerous tumours have a high risk of spreading and growing beyond the original site.

  • Osteosarcoma: It is the cancer of the cells that form the bones. These cells are known as osteoblasts. It is a common type of bone cancer among children and teens aged 10-19 years.
  • Chondrosarcoma: The type of cancer generally develops in adults. It grows in the connective tissue that lines the joints and spread to the bone. The connective tissue is said to be cartilage.
  • Ewing’s Sarcoma: Cancer of the pelvic region, chest wall and the thigh bone is Ewing’s sarcoma. This cancer can also affect the supporting soft tissues of bones. Supporting tissues include fat, muscle or blood vessels. It is most common in teens aged 10-19 years. It is a rare and second most common type of bone cancer in children.
  • Chordoma: Chordoma develops in the spine. That affects the base of the spine and skull in adults.

Secondary Bone Cancers

Bone cancer is prevalent in adults. It can spread in the other parts of the body but mostly in other bones. Secondary bone cancers can cause pain, fractures and hypercalcemia. People with breast and prostate cancer are at high risk of getting secondary bone cancer.

Symptoms

Bone cancer has the following symptoms

  • Pain in bones, especially during nights.
  • Weak bones
  • Increase risk of fractures.
  • Swelling and tenderness in cancer affected area
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty in movements
  • Fever
  • Pain gets worse with activity
  • Sweating
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Causes

The leading cause is still unknown for bone cancer. However, it is reported that few cases of bone cancer have been linked to family history and high radiation exposure. Alterations in the DNA of the cells can lead to the development of cancer. Sometimes the gene that controls cell division mutates, causing cancer. 

Gene mutations that create oncogenes or turn off the tumour suppressor cells can cause cancer.

Other Risk Factors

The presence of risk factors enhances the chances of developing a particular disease. For example, smoking is a risk factor for cancer that can be changed or avoided. But few risk factors such as heredity or age can’t be changed.

Having risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll get cancer. People with one or more risk factors do not develop the disease. However, people with cancer may or may not have any known risk factors.

Some risk factors for bone cancers that increase the chances of getting bone cancer are:

  • Heredity: These are genetic disorders passed to the generations. People are at higher risk who have a family history of these cancers. Genes that are linked to the disease are still not found.
  • Prior Cancer Treatment: People who undergo chemotherapy treatment earlier are at higher risk of getting the disease. People treated with high radiation are more likely to have the disease at a young age.
  • Paget Disease: It is a type of bone disease that primarily affects people over 50. This condition causes the formation of abnormal bone tissues that leads to weak, brittle and thick bones, ultimately more susceptible to fracture. The disease is not a type of cancer, but it can lead to osteosarcoma.
  • Pre-Existing Bone Tumors: Bone or cartilage tumours are caused due to genetic conditions. These tumours increase the risk of bone cancer.
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation: Bone marrow transplantation has been linked to cancer development such as osteosarcoma.
Diagnosis

Diagnosis of bone cancer includes imaging tests and biopsies.

Physical examination: The doctor may comprehensively evaluate the condition of the patient. The doctor also seeks information about the symptoms of the patient, such as pain, fatigue, and difficulty in movement. If the doctor is convinced that the symptoms may indicate severe disease, he may ask the patient for further testing.

Imaging tests: Imaging tests help in determining the size and location of the tumours and if they can spread or not. The types of imaging tests include:

  • Bone scan
  • CT scan (Computerized Tomography)
  • MRI (Magnetic resonance Imaging)
  • PET (Positron emission tomography)
  • X-ray
  • Radionuclide bone scan

Biopsy: A biopsy helps determine the stage of the tumour or the ability to spread and how much it can spread.

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Treatment

The treatment of bone cancer involves surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, cryosurgery and targeted therapy.

Surgery
The surgical procedures aim to remove the tumour cell from bone tissues altogether. It also helps take bone from other parts of the body to replace the lost bone.

Chemotherapy
The doctor uses anti-cancer drugs through the intravenous or oral route to kill the cancer cells. The doctor may also use chemotherapy along with surgery.

Radiation therapy
The therapy involves a high beam of energy such as X-rays that kills cancer cells. Radiation therapy is generally used before the surgery. It helps to shrink the tumour and make the removal easy. It is usually done along with surgery or chemotherapy.

Cryosurgery
The technique used to avoid the surgical procedure. It involves the freezing of cancer cells with liquid nitrogen. As a result, it kills the cancer cells.

Targeted therapy
The therapy involves designed drugs. These drugs specifically interact with the molecule that causes cancer.

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