Bone Cancer: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Stages and Treatment

Here's all you need to know about bone cancer and what causes it.

3 min read
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Bone cancer is any cancer arising in the bone. Bone cancer can begin in any bone from the body but it commonly affects the long bones in the arms, legs, and pelvic area. In fact, bone tumours may be classified as primary or secondary.

Primary bone cancer is the most serious of all bone cancers as they form directly inside the bone or in bone-derived cells and tissues. Primary bone cancer is not at all common and they account for less than 1% of all cancers (Healthline).


Bone Cancer: Types

According to the doctors at Mayo Clinic, primary type of bone cancer includes:

  • Osteosarcoma, a common type of primary bone cancer that begins in the cells that form the bone. It generally affects children and young adults between the ages 10 and 30. It may affect the bones in the leg or arm, it may also start in the hips, shoulders or other locations.

  • Chondrosarcoma is the second most common form of bone cancer. It forms in the subchondral tissue, the tough connective tissue between the bones. Chondrosarcoma occurs in the shoulders, pelvis or hip area and affects middle-aged or older adults. It rarely affects people below the age of 20 years and the risk increases with increasing age.

  • Ewing's sarcoma is rare bone cancer that forms in the bone of children and young adults and is rarely seen in the people over the age of 30. It commonly occurs in the long bones of the body like arms, legs and pelvis

Secondary bone cancers are those which metastasize from another part of the body to the bones. This type is more common than primary bone cancers.

Bone Cancer: Causes

According to the American Cancer Society, the exact cause of bone cancer is not yet known but a number of hereditary and environmental factors are likely to increase the risk of bone cancer or contribute to the development of the cancer. Certain factors that increase the risk of bone cancer include:

  • Exposure to radiation

  • Bone tumours

  • Inherited genetic syndrome

  • Paget's disease

  • Family history of bone cancer


Bone Cancer: Signs & Symptoms 

According to the doctors of Cleveland Clinic, the various signs and symptoms of bone cancer might include:

  • Fatigue

  • Bone pain

  • Weight loss

  • Weakened bone

  • Swelling and tenderness near the affected area

  • Palpable hard mass in the long bones

  • Fever

  • Difficulty in moving

Bone Cancer: Diagnosis

According to United States (US) National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are various options to diagnose bone cancer, some of which are:

  • Imaging tests to determine the location and size of the bone tumours and the extent of their spread. The type of imaging tests depends on the symptoms and may include options like CT scan, MRI, bone scan, Positron Emission Tomography (PET).

  • Doctor may also suggest a biopsy in which a part of the tissue is removed from the tumour and tested under a microscope to help detect if it is cancer, the type of cancer and even the stage of cancer.

  • Tests like CT Scans, X-rays, and blood tests can determine the stage of bone cancer.

Bone Cancer: Stages

In stage I, the bone cancer is confined to the bone.

In stage II, cancer has not yet spread but may become invasive becoming a threat to other tissues.

In stage III, cancer has become invasive and has spread to more than one area of the affected bone.

In stage IV, cancer has spread to the tissue surrounding the bone and other body parts such as the lungs or even brain.

Bone Cancer: Treatment 

The stage of cancer, general health and preference of the doctor may determine the treatment option that can be used for treating your cancer. Treatment options may include (Mayo Clinic):

  • Surgery to remove the cancerous tumour or all or a part of the limb if the cancer has spread to wide or is located on a complex point of the bone.

  • Radiation therapy that uses powerful energy beam such as X-rays to kill the cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy involves using medication through intravenous injection or taken orally to kill the cancer cells.

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Topics:  Bone Cancer 

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