When bone cancer develops and grows, several symptoms can appear but the most common is pain. Although the disease can occur in any bone in the body, it most often occurs in the arms and legs long bones. Arthritis, osteoporosis, or injury may mimic several symptoms of bone cancer. When you encounter one or more of those symptoms, address them with your doctor to identify the cause and, when necessary, receive proper care. Although the exact causes of this type of cancer are unclear, certain factors may increase the risk of the disease occurring, such as genetic disorders and prior treatments for other conditions. We think every cancer is as unique as the person who is fighting it. In an era of precision medicine, with ever-evolving advances in treatment, bone cancer fighting requires personalized care, provided by experts trained in the many facets of this complex disease. Our cancer specialists collaborate with a multidisciplinary care team that uses a wide range of diagnostic tests, such as bone, PET, and CT scans, to diagnose and stage the disease, and tailor a custom treatment plan. Imaging and laboratory tests monitor the size of the tumors and the response to the medication throughout the procedure, enabling the care team to change the treatment plan as required.
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Primary bone cancer refers to cancers which start in the bone. These are different to secondary bone cancers which started in other parts of the body and later spread to the bones.
Bone cancers are tumours which have the potential to spread to other parts of the body. These are different to benign (non-cancerous) bone tumours which do not spread. Benign bone tumours are more common than malignant (cancerous) bone tumours.
Symptoms of bone cancer vary from person to person and depending on the location and size of the cancer. The most common symptoms are pain and swelling or tenderness in the affected area. Sometimes bone cancer can interfere with movement and can weaken the bones, occasionally leading to a fracture. Other symptoms of cancer may include tiredness, fever, weight loss, and anaemia. None of these symptoms is a sure sign of cancer; if you suspect you have a health problem consult your doctor.
If a bone tumour is suspected the doctor will do a complete medical examination. This may include a blood test as bone tumours can be associated with increased levels of certain proteins in the blood. The doctor may also recommend X-rays and other scans of the bone(s), if X-rays and scans suggest that a tumour might be present then a biopsy (removal of a sample of tissue) will be performed. A pathologist will then examine the cells to determine whether it is cancerous, and if so what type of cancer it is.
There are over 200 bones in the human body, any of these can be affected by cancer. However, certain types of bone cancer are more common in specific bones. Osteosarcoma is most commonly found in the bones around the knee. Ewing's sarcoma is more common in the upper leg, pelvis and other bones of the trunk. The pelvis is the most frequent location for chondrosarcoma. Nevertheless, it is possible for these cancers to affect any bone in the body.
Treatment will depend on the type of cancer, whether it has spread or not , and the size and location of the main (primary) tumour. Treatment of bone cancers is complex and involves a team of different specialists usually within an institution that is experienced in treating these types of cancers.
There are 3 main types of therapy used to treat bone cancers;
1. Surgery (to take out the tumour in an operation)
2. Radiotherapy (using high-dose x-rays to kill cancer cells)
3. Chemotherapy (using drugs to kill cancer cells)
Surgery is often used to remove the primary tumour. For tumours of the arms and legs an amputation of the limb is sometimes necessary, however, limb-sparing surgery may be possible in many cases where only the cancerous part of the bone is removed and it is replaced by a bone graft or metal prosthesis. Radiotherapy may be given as well as or instead of surgery to destroy the cancer cells. Also, chemotherapy (drugs) may also be given to kill malignant cells that may be circulating around the body.