Bone is a firm part of our body that constitutes part of the vertebral skeleton. Healthy bones provide support & protect various organs of human body, yield red & white blood cells, store minerals & also allow mobility. Bone cancer is a diseased tumor of the bone that devastates healthy bone tissue. Not every bone tumor, is malignant in nature, in fact non-malignant tumors are more usual than malignant ones. Some recent studies estimate that by the end of 2016, there would be about 7,000 new cases & 3,500 deaths globally from cancer of the bones & joints. Survival rates of patients suffering from bone cancer vary depending upon a number of factors, including the stage & type of bone cancer.
Bone cancer is cancer that affects the skeletal structure. Bones in the body are covered by a network of fibrous tissue known as 'matrix' & these act as a base for calcium salts. Outer part of bone is a harder covering called cortical bone which covers the lighter & the soft trabecular bone. Bones are developed in a constant process of degeneration & regeneration. In case any of the cells in bone get affected with cancer it starts an uncontrolled growth in them.
It is not clearly known what causes most bone cancers. Few surgeons & oncologists disclose that bone cancer may begin as a fallacy or error in cell's DNA of patients. This error imparts cells to grow & multiply in an uncontrolled manner. These cells multiply & go on living, rather than dying at a normal time-set. Accumulating mutated cells eventually create a tumor that can infect surrounding structures or spread to various other parts of the body.
Commonly observed signs and symptoms of all types of bone cancer are given below.
Basically, there are two main types of bone cancer categories according to the origin of cancer cells, primary bone cancer & secondary bone cancer. Bone cancer is however further divided into the following types.
There are various types if primary cancers that are found to affect bone cells like the following.
This is one of the most commonly seen primary bone cancer & is mostly found in teenagers & adolescents, although chances of developing this cancer is irrelevant to age. This cancer can develop in any part of the skeletal structure such as the femur (lower thigh bone), tibia (shin bone) & humerus (upper arm bone).
This cancer is more prevalent among teenagers & usually originates at the hip (pelvic bone), thigh (femur) or the shin (tibia). Ewing's sarcoma can also develop in soft tissues of the body & which is known as soft tissue sarcomas.
This type of bone cancer is mostly found in middle-aged adults of around 40 years & onwards. This is a form of cartilage cell cancer. Cartilage is the smooth material that generally covers the end of bones in a joint. Cartilage provides support & smooth movement to the joint. This cancer can affect cells inside the bone as well as develop outside. This excessive growth causes a lump around the affected joints & is usually seen in the pelvic bone (hip joint), femur bone (thighs), humerus bone (upper arm bone), ribs & the scapula (shoulder blade).
This type of bone cancer is similar to osteosarcomas but is not able to produce osteoid. This cancer is usually found in adults of over 40 years of age. Spindle cell sarcomas can include undifferentiated sarcoma of bone, fibrosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocystoma & leiomyosarcoma.
This is a very rare type of bone cancer and is mostly seen in adults between 40 - 60 years of age. Women have been found to be more prone to this type of bone cancer.
It is advisable to consult an experienced physician or general oncologist in case patients see multiple symptoms of bone cancer. After a thorough knowledge of patient's medical history & performing a physical examination the doctor might suggest diagnostic imaging tests such as a bone scan, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, x-ray test or a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan. Biopsy can also be suggested to determine exact type of cancerous cells in order to help the doctor select the most-suitable cancer treatment for patients. Biopsy invariably requires removing a part of the cancerous tissue using minimally invasive methods such as a needle or a small incision, if required.
During initial consultation, oncologists are likely to ask patients a number of questions. Being ready to answer these queries may help the surgeon to identify the cause of bone cancer & then decide an appropriate method of treatment. They may ask the following questions.
Patients should follow a healthy diet prior to treatment as well as after completion of the procedure. Patients should ask surgeons how to cope up with major stresses due to the health condition. They should make a note of all medications they are taking currently & tell surgeons about them.
As patients cope with bone cancer, they need to have an open & honest discussion with the oncologist. Patients should not hesitate to ask any doubts they have, no matter how strange it might seem. Some of these relevant questions which a patient may ask are listed below.
Apart from these questions, patients should seek more information about recovery times so that they can plan their daily schedule. Or sometimes patients might want to take a second opinion before undergoing the specified treatment.
Treatment for bone cancer depends upon several factors such as patient's fitness level & age, the extent to which cancer has spread as well as the type of bone cancer. Most common forms of bone cancer treatments are surgery, chemotherapy & radiation. Osteosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma & spindle cell sarcoma are usually treated with a combination of surgery & chemotherapy. Surgeons perform chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the size of the tumor (cancerous growth) so that it can be easily & efficiently be removed with a surgical procedure. Radiotherapy is most often used to treat Ewing's sarcoma as it can be used successfully to shrink the tumor after surgery as well as lower the risk of cancer recurring in that spot once again. Team of highly-skilled & experienced health professionals will perform bone cancer treatments & which usually include specialist bone cancer surgeons, cancer specialists (oncologists), experienced surgical staff & others.
Once treatment of bone cancer has finished, the patient will need to attend regular follow-up sessions to check if the bone cancer has returned. They will be asked by surgeons to give frequent visits in the first two years after bone cancer treatment has completed, possibly after every three months. During these sessions, oncologists will ask specific questions about any troubles the patient might be having & could use evaluation exams, lab tests, x-rays & other scans to check for signs of cancer or bone cancer treatment side-effects.
Risks & complications due to bone cancer can be vast. Pain from the cancer itself is the most general complication, but various treatments for bone cancer, such as radiation, surgery & chemotherapy may come with their own health challenges & side-effects.
Complications of chemotherapy are stated below.
Common complications of radiation therapy include the following.
For some patients with bone cancer, treatment may destroy or completely remove the cancer. It is extremely important for patients to go to all scheduled follow-up appointments regularly. When patients observe any severe side-effects after several months of treatment, they should talk to the oncologist regarding the problems or concerns they have. Following bone cancer surgery, a program of physical therapy will be an essential part of helping patients restore as much mobility & independence as possible.
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