Cancer is a terrifying diagnosis that affects millions of people. The good news is that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence thanks to modern advances in oncology. The first step to battling cancer is understanding what to expect.
What is bone cancer?
Bone cancer is a rare form of cancer that accounts for less than one percent of all cancer diagnoses. The pelvis and the long bones of the arms and legs are most commonly affected by bone cancer, however, any bone in the body could be susceptible. Benign bone tumors are more common than malignant tumors.
Bone cancer forms in the skeletal system and destroys the tissue, and it can spread to other organs in the body. Different types of bone cancer occur in children and adults.
The two main types of bone cancer are primary and secondary bone cancer. Primary bone cancer means cancerous cells have developed in the bone. Secondary bone cancer occurs when cancer has metastasized to the bones.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
It’s unknown what causes most bone cancers. Doctors have identified certain risk factors associated with a higher risk of developing bone cancer:
- Inherited Genetic Syndromes: Some bone cancers are thought to be hereditary and caused by a mutation in certain genes. Retinoblastoma is a heredity, rare eye cancer that affects children and increases their risk of developing bone or soft tissue sarcomas due to the mutation of the RB1 gene.
- Paget’s Disease of Bone: this benign, pre-cancerous condition primarily affects one or more bones in adults over the age of 50. Paget’s Disease causes abnormal bone tissue to form, resulting in heavy, thick, and brittle bones that are more likely to fracture. About one percent of adults with Paget’s Disease develop bone cancer, typically when several bones are affected.
- Radiation Therapy: bones that have been exposed to large doses of radiation, such as during radiation therapy for cancer, have an increased risk of developing bone cancer. Exposure to radioactive materials causes minerals to build up in bones, thus increasing the risk of future bone cancer.
Swelling and tenderness near the affected area, bone pain, weakened and fracturing bones, fatigue, weight loss, fevers, chills, and night sweats are common symptoms of bone cancer. Intermittent pain that doesn’t improve with over-the-counter pain relievers, and pain that worsens at night, are also symptoms.
The sooner that bone cancer symptoms are caught, the higher the chances of survival. The Cancer Center takes a whole-person cancer treatment approach that combines a compassionate, nurturing environment and a patient-centered approach to cancer treatment. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America is a national, comprehensive cancer care network offering a full range of treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and spiritual support.
The Stages of Bone Cancer
There are stages and grading of bone tumors that doctors use to determine the most effective treatment plan and survival outcome:
- Stage 1: At Stage 1 the bone tumor is approximately eight centimeters wide and hasn’t metastasized and is considered low grade. This is the most treatable stage of bone cancer.
- Stage 2: Stage 2 tumors are generally the same size as Stage 1 tumors, but cancer has a higher grade as it is more aggressive at Stage 2.
- Stage 3: Stage 3 tumors have developed in at least two places within the same bone, but they haven’t metastasized to the lungs or lymph nodes. These tumors have a high grade.
- Stage 4: Stage 4 tumors are the most aggressive and have developed in several places and metastasized to the lungs, lymph nodes, or other organs.
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Doctors determine the best course of treatment based on the type of bone cancer, where it has developed, how aggressive it is, and whether it has metastasized. The most common treatments include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, cryosurgery, and targeted therapy. The five-year survival rate for bone cancer patients largely on whether or not it has spread. The earlier cancer is detected, the sooner it can be treated and improve the overall outlook.