Bone cancer is a malignant tumour that arises from the cells that make up the bones of the body.
- Primary bone cancer. Primary bone tumours are tumours that arise in the bone tissue itself, and they may be benign or malignant (bone cancer).
- Benign (non-cancerous) tumours in the bones are more common than bone cancers. 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
As with other cancers, there is no clear definitive cause for bone cancer. However, researchers have identified several factors that increase the risk of developing these tumours. Therefore, 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.
- 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 the body without radiation.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan – in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein and it usually goes through 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.
- Chemotherapy – to treat certain bone cancers, such as Ewing sarcoma and osteosarcoma.
- Radiotherapy – Radiotherapy delivery systems help our radiation oncologists to target difficult-to-reach bone tumours.
Halcyon Radiotherapy System at Beacon Hospital enables:
- Fast and precise X-ray dose delivered to each tumour with high accuracy over a minimum number of treatment sessions
- Reduces unwanted radiation dose, thus, minimising side effects
At Beacon Hospital’s Cancer Centre, treatment may comprise a number of healthcare professionals depending on the type of treatment. We adopt a multidisciplinary approach which includes a clinical oncologist, medical oncologist, radiologist, neurologist, neurosurgeon, cancer nurses, as well as other allied health professionals such as dietitian and physiotherapists.
The outlook for bone cancer depends on factors such as your age, the type of bone cancer you have, how far cancer has spread (the stage), and how likely it is to spread further (the grade). Generally, bone cancer is much easier to cure, especially for healthy people whose cancer hasn’t spread.