Bone cancer stands amid some of the rarer types of cancers yet fatal and life-threatening. As the name says, bone cancer is the type of cancer that develops inside the bones as a result of its healthy cells turning malignant and reproducing at an abnormal rate.
Types of Bone Cancer
Bone cancer, especially primary bone cancer is the most serious of all. It directly develops in the bones and its surrounding tissues, including the cartilages and greatly affects their functionality.
Cancer can also spread from the bones to its surrounding areas, making the body weak and fragile. This, in another form, is known as secondary bone cancer and its’ more common amid people across the world than its counterpart.
Common types of Primary Bone Cancers
Typically, there are four main types of primary bone cancers. These are as follows.
Multiple Myeloma (MM)
While this is the most common type of bone cancer, it typically occurs when cancerous cells develop in the bone marrow and spread tumors as across the entire human system. Multiple myeloma is more prevalent in older adults than children, adolescents, and young individuals. Amid all types of bone cancers, Multiple myeloma has the best prognoses and most people affected by the disease do not require any treatment.
Osteosarcoma, or otherwise known as osteogenic sarcoma, it generally affects children and adolescents, but it’s prevalent in adults as well. The cancer type has the ability to originate at the tips of the long bones, especially the ones present in the arms and legs. Osteosarcoma may or can also develop in the hips, shoulders and other parts of the body. The disease mostly affects the hard tissues, which make the outer layers of the bones.
Chondrosarcoma cancer is more prevalent in the pelvic region, thighs, and the shoulders, especially in older adults. It generally develops in the sub-chondral tissues, which serve as the body’s tough connective tissues between the bones. Chondrosarcoma is the second most common type of primary cancer recognized by medical science.
It is a rare cancer that either develops in the soft tissues which envelope the bones or directly in the bones, especially of children and young adults. Common parts affected by this disease include, the long bones of the body, such as the arms and legs.
Symptoms of Bone Cancer
Bone cancer symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some common symptoms of this fatal disease are as follows:
- Presence of palpable hard mass in the long bones, especially of the limbs
- Feeling more tired or fatigued than usual
- Pain and swelling in the affected bones
Less common symptoms of bone cancer include:
- Easily broken bones
- Loss of weight
Causes of Bone Cancer
The basic causes of bone cancers are yet not clear to medical science. However, their speculations and studies prove that there are certain specific factors which can serve as major contributors to this problem. These include:
Abnormal Cellular Growth: The healthy cells of the body continuously grow, divide, replace the older cell and die. Abnormal cells, on the other hand, continue to grow and live. They do not die. Moreover, they begin forming masses of tissue, which turn into metastatic tumors. The presence of such cells in the body paves way for cancer to develop and cause harm to the body in innumerate ways.
Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy is one of the major treatment methods used by physicians and oncologists to kill cancerous cell in the body. However, osteosarcoma may develop as a result of this treatment amid people receiving it. The usage of high doses of radiation serves as a major factor in this development.
The Risk of Developing Bone Cancer
The following people are most likely to be at risk of developing bone cancer than others.
- Individuals with a family history of cancers, especially bone cancer
- Individuals who’re receiving or had received radiation treatment or therapy in the past
- People who have Paget’s disease. It’s a condition wherein the bones break down and grow back in abnormal shapes
- Currently or previously had multiple tumors, especially in the cartilage, which is known as the connective tissue of the bones
Diagnosing Bone Cancer
Medical practitioners classify primary bone cancer in four major stages. Each of these has been described below – the location of cancer, its activity, and the damage it has done to the body:
Stage 1: In this stage, the cancer hasn’t spread from the bone to other parts of the body. It means intact.
Stage 2: In this stage, the disease has not spread outside the bone, but may become invasive if not treated on time. It can pose as a threat to other tissues of the body
Stage 3: The cancer type has moved out of the bone and spread to one or more parts of the body. Treatment at this stage does not guarantee effective results.
Stage 4: Precisely the last stage, bone cancer has now spread to the surrounding tissues of the bone and to other organs as well.
Typically, one or a combination of the below-mentioned methods is used for determining cancer stage:
- A biopsy, wherein a small sample of tissue or tumor is studied to look for the presence of cancer cells in there
- A bone scan, that checks and analyzes bone condition and suggests the severity of the disease
- A series of blood tests
- Imaging tests, including X-rays, MRI scans, and CT scans which give in-depth views of the bone structure and suggest abnormalities
Treating Bone Cancer
Treatment of bone cancer depends upon the following factors:
- A person’s age
- Their overall health condition
- The stage of cancer
- The size and location of the tumor
Medical science has developed certain medications which can effectively help in treating bone cancer:
- Pain medications to relieve discomfort and inflammation
- bisphosphonates to help prevent loss of bone and protect the body’s bone structure
- Chemotherapy drugs to treat multiple myeloma
- Cytotoxic drugs to stop the growth of cancerous cells
Radiation therapy may be given to kill the cancer cells and even prevent them from developing again.
A surgery is typically recommended in case a prominent tumor exists in one of the bones of the body. In the process, surgeons remove tumors or affected tissue and replace damaged bone. This effectively helps in stopping the cancer from spreading quickly and affecting other parts of the body. In case of extensive bone damage in the arms or legs, amputation may also be recommended.