Bone Cancer in Children – What You Should Know
Bone cancer in children is one of the most common cancers afflicting children today (6th on the list). It is very uncommon for cancer cells to develop in the bones but in this case the cancer cells mutate from osteoblasts, the very same cells that make bones grow. This is the reason why kids are very prone to bone cancer as they are in a series of growth spurts. Bone cancer can metastasize or spread to other parts of the body, usually on other distant bones in the body and the lungs. This makes early detection and diagnosis very important to the timely treatment of the disease. It is important to note that bone cancer in children often hits male kids and those who are taller than their peers. Risk factors for bone cancer in children are inherited rare cancer syndromes, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, retinoblastoma, and exposure to radiation.
Types of Bone Cancer in Children
Bone cancer children have three different types:
- Osteosarcoma – This bone cancer often occurs in the knee and upper arm and in places where a long bone is situated (under the knee, thighs, etc.). This cancer is from oesteoid tissues with the mutated cells a part of the very building blocks of bones.
- Chondrosarcoma – This cancer often starts in the cartilaginous tissue, the soft bone “pads” between the bones. This cancer is often spotted between the hip bones (pelvis), the upper leg, and the shoulders. When a chondrosarcoma has traces of bone cells (cancerous) chondrosarcoma is re-classified as osteosarcoma.
- Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors or ESFTs is a type of cancer that can happen both in bones and soft tissues like fibrous tissue, supporting tissue, blood vessels, fat and muscles. This bone cancer is often seen first in the backbone, arms, legs, pelvis, and the legs.
Symptoms of Bone Cancer in Children
One of the primary bone cancer symptoms in children is pain. This pain can be nagging and can be felt when the child is both in motion or stationary. This pain can also be severe enough for kids to wake up at night because of it. Because there are multiple causes of such pain (including minor muscle issues), it is important to consult a doctor especially if the pain is increasing just to be sure.
Other signs of bone cancer in children are:
- Swelling in the upper arm or below the knee together with the pain in these areas
- A noticeable lump where the pain is concentrated (after several weeks after the pain was first felt)
- Unexplained limp
- Brittle bones that can lead to fractures
When these signs are present you must make it a point to bring your child to a doctor who specializes in bone cancer (orthopedic oncologist). Early diagnosis is the key in effective intervention. How to diagnose bone cancer in children? The first step is for the doctor to perform a physical check up and a detailed review of the child’s medical history. X-ray is a standard diagnostic tool for bone cancer. A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may also be performed to better see the health of the bones of the child. A bone biopsy is performed when the doctor see a need to probe deeper into the possibility of a cancer in the bone. This can be an open biopsy (to get sample of the tumor in the bone) or a needle biopsy that will just use a hollow needle to extract samples.
Children Bone Cancer Treatment
The most common treatment approach for bone cancer in children is chemotherapy. This can be administered intravenously or orally. This is often followed by surgery. This invasive procedure is aimed of locating and extracting affected bone tissues, muscles, and nerves. Sometimes a limb-salvage surgery is not enough to completely remove the tumor and cancerous cells so limb amputation is sometimes performed. Thanks to the advances of surgical procedures for bone cancer limb amputation is often not necessary in many cases.
After the surgery another round of chemotherapy is done. This is to ensure that all cancerous cells are dealt with and recurrence of the cancer can be prevented later on. The prognosis for bone cancer in children is around 60 % – 80 %. This will depend on the timing of the intervention (acting immediately when bone cancer in children symptoms surface) and the effectiveness of the chemotherapy that finishes the offensive thrust of the cancer cells.