Bone cancer is a rare cancer that can occur in any part of the bone. It starts when normal cells behave abnormally and grow uncontrollably, leading to the formation of a tumor. The tumor can either be cancerous or non-cancerous. If the tumor is malignant (cancerous), it can spread to different organs of the body. If the tumor is benign (non-cancerous), it will not spread. However, a benign tumor can grow large enough to press on surrounding tissue and weaken the bone. If bone tumor cells get into the blood, they can affect other body organs, especially the lungs through a process called metastasis.
Symptoms associated with bone cancer
- Pain: Pain in the affected is very common in patients of bone cancer. Initially, the pain is irregular. It may become worse at night or when the bone is used. As the cancer progresses, the might stay.
- Swelling: Inflammation in the area of the pain may not occur until some time. It is a possibility to feel a lump depending on the location of the tumor.
- Fracture: Bone cancer can weaken the bone in which it grows, but usually it does not cause a fracture. People with a fracture through a bone cancer experience severe pain in a limb that had been sore for a few months.
- Other symptoms: Cancer in the bones of the spine can press on nerves, causing numbness and tingling or even weakness. It may also lead to weight loss and fatigue.
Causes of bone cancer
The precise reason of bone cancer
is unknown. However, researchers are contemplating various factors behind bone cancer. They have taken huge steps in understating how certain changes in a person’s DNA can cause normal cells to become cancerous. But most bone cancers are not caused by inherited DNA mutations. They are caused by mutations acquired during the person’s lifetime. These mutations may be because of exposure to radiation
or cancer-causing chemicals, but in most cases they occur for no reason.
Tests and diagnosis for bone cancer
Following a physical examination
, your doctor may recommend certain tests including:
- Blood Tests: Some lab tests may help detect bone cancer. Patients with bone cancer are found to having high levels of alkaline phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase.
- X-ray: In an X-Ray, small amount of radiation is used to create a picture of the structures inside of the body.
- Bone Scan: A bone scan uses a radioactive tracer which is administered into a patient’s vein to look at the inside of the bones.
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: A CT scan develops a three-dimensional picture of the body using an x-ray machine. A computer then combines these images into a detailed, cross-sectional view that shows any abnormalities or tumors.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI uses magnetic fields to create detailed images of the body. The procedure correctly measures the tumor’s size.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan: In a PET scan, small amount of a radioactive sugar substance is injected into the patient’s body to create picture of internal organs and tissues.
- Biopsy: A biopsy refers to taking a small tissue for examination under a microscope. Other tests can suggest that cancer is present, but only a biopsy can make a definite diagnosis.
Treatment options for bone cancer
- Surgery: Surgery is the removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue during an operation. It involves a wide excision of the tumor where the tumor is removed along with a margin of healthy tissue around it in all directions.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, typically by interfering in the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide. Systemic chemotherapy is delivered through the bloodstream using an intravenous tube to reach cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy for bone cancer is given post surgery to eliminate the possibility of remaining cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells. This therapy is effective in patients who have a tumor that cannot be removed with surgery. It may also be performed prior to surgery in order to shrink the tumor.
While choosing a treatment option, it is advisable to talk with your doctor. He/she is better equipped to tell which option is best for you.