Bone cancer is an uncommon cancer that begins in a bone that destroys its normal bone tissue. Of course not all bone tumours are malignant, but benign bone tumours are more common than malignant ones. Bone cancer can begin in any bone in the body, but it most commonly affects the long bones that make up the arms and legs.
Several types of bone cancer exist. Some types of bone cancer occur primarily in children, while others affect mostly adults. The term “bone cancer” doesn’t include cancers that begin elsewhere in the body and spread (metastasize) to the bone. Instead, those cancers are named for where they began, such as breast cancer that has metastasized to the bone.
Signs and symptoms
Bone cancer can affect any bone, but most cases develop in the long bones of the legs or upper arms.
The main symptoms include:
- persistent bone pain that gets worse over time
- persistent or unusual swelling and redness (inflammation) over a bone, which can make movement difficult if the affected bone is near a joint
- a noticeable lump over a bone
- a weak bone that breaks (fractures) more easily than normal
Unfortunately, we still do not have a clear definitive cause for bone cancer, however researchers have identified several factors that increase the risk of developing these tumours. However, you’re more at risk of developing it if you:
- have had previous exposure to radiation during radiotherapy or with certain anti-cancer drugs.
- have a condition known as Paget’s disease of the bone
- have rare genetic conditions such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Rothmund-Thomson syndrome and Retinoblastoma.
How is bone cancer diagnosed?
- X-ray – that highlights the abnormal part of the bone on its location, size, and shape of bone tumour.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan – is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan – which uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of the specific parts of body without radiation.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan – is which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein and go through usually a CT scanner to pick up cancer cells that often take up more glucose than normal cells and could therefore be a powerful scan to find the cancer cells in the body.
- Biopsy – removal of part of the suspected tissue of a bone tumour and examined by a qualified pathologist to determine the nature of the tissue cells.
Treatment for bone cancer depends on the type of bone cancer you have and how far it has spread. Most people have a combination of:
- surgery to remove the section of cancerous bone
The outlook for bone cancer depends on factors such as your age, the type of bone cancer you have, how far the cancer has spread (the stage), and how likely it is to spread further (the grade).
Generally, bone cancer is much easier to cure in otherwise healthy people whose cancer hasn’t spread.