When a person sees their physician because they suspect they have bone cancer, they may wonder is bone cancer painful? Unfortunately, bone cancer is one of the most painful types of cancer. During the development of bone cancer, normal cell activity in bones is interrupted by cancer cells. When healthy bone cells that would normally keep a person’s bones strong are disrupted by cancer cells, this causes bone to become painfully brittle. In some cases, bone cancer can make bones too thick, which also causes pain.
This can lead to intense pain in bones because of nerves inside the bones becoming irritated. Sometimes, the membrane that covers the bone becomes stretched, also causing pain. Pain can be a constant nagging pain that varies in severity from person to person. Bone cancer pain can also begin as mild pain that gets worse as the cancer progresses.
Bone Cancer Can Be Primary Or Secondary
Primary bone cancers are somewhat rare. In fact, they only make up about one percent of all bone cancers. These are cancers that actually begin within the bones, either in the hard tissue of bones, in the fibrous tissue that is more like thread, or sometimes in bone marrow. There are three types of primary bone cancer:
– Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors – This type of cancer happens either in the bone itself or in soft tissue. Ewing Sarcoma is most often found in the arms, legs, backbone and in the pelvis. This bone cancer type normally occurs in children and young adults under age 19, and boys tend to be more affected by Ewing Sarcoma than girls.
– Osteosarcoma – This comes from the hard tissue in bones called osteoid tissue. Osteosarcoma cancers most often happen in the upper arm or in the knee. This type of cancer also occurs most often in children and young adults, ages 10 to 19.
– Chondrosarcoma – A type of bone cancer that starts in the cartilaginous tissue, normally found in the shoulder, pelvis or in the upper leg area. This type of cancer is most often found in adults who are over age 40.
Most cases of bone cancer begin as cancer in some other part of the body. The resulting bone cancer is considered to be a secondary type of cancer in these cases. The most common types of cancer in which bone cancer can develop are breast cancer, prostate or lung cancer. When bone cancer happens as a result of other cancers spreading, it is then known as metastatic cancer.
Symptoms Of Bone Cancer And Tests Used To Diagnose It
When a person wonders “is bone cancer painful?”, physicians will often tell them that pain is usually the first and primary symptom of this type of cancer. This would have to be pain that is classified as persistent and unusual, and not caused from any kind of extreme physical activity. If a patient notices swelling or pain in the soft tissue near bones, that should also be checked because it could be an early warning symptom of a developing bone cancer.
If a person is experiencing either or both major symptoms, it is crucial to be checked by a physician. Treatment for bone cancer is most effective when the cancer is detected early. The main ways physicians use to find out if a person does have bone cancer include bone scans, PET scans, x-rays, an MRI or by a CAT or CT scans. Sometimes biopsies are also used, requiring getting a tissue sample from the patient’s bone tumor. Tumors can be either benign or malignant. A biopsy can give physicians and patients a definitive answer about the type of tumor present, so treatment can begin.
Treatment For Bone Cancer
There are basically four types of treatment for bone cancer and then there will be follow-up treatment afterwards. Patients should always discuss treatment options with their physician to decide the best course of treatment for their specific type of bone cancer. Treatment options include:
– Surgery – Often the first course of treatment is surgery to remove the tumor and any tissue surrounding it, to be sure all the cancer is removed. The techniques used for surgery have been improved over the years and care is taken to do the least amount of procedures possible, while still effectively removing the cancer cells.
– Cryosurgery – This cutting edge procedure uses liquid nitrogen to freeze cancer cells, destroying them. It is sometimes tried in place of standard surgery.
– Radiation – Radiation therapy is used to destroy as many cancer cells as possible. It is sometimes used if the cancer cannot be treated with chemotherapy, like in the case of Chondrosarcoma. It is also an option for patients who do not want to undergo surgery for their cancer.
– Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is often the treatment method used to destroy cancer cells by using powerful drugs. If the type of cancer a patient has cannot be treated through chemotherapy, another treatment is substituted.
After all treatments are complete, patients receive follow-up care including periodic checking through blood tests and sometimes with x-rays. This is crucial to make sure the cancer does not come back. Patients who are starting to experience symptoms of bone cancer again are given special attention due to the urgency of catching the recurring cancer early.
Effective Pain Treatment Regimens Available
When a patient first asks is bone cancer painful, the answer is usually a resounding yes. However, there are very effective treatments today to handle pain. Doctors will always go over these options with patients. There are new medications available today, along with therapies like acupuncture that help with pain. Pain is best alleviated through good communication with one’s physician to decide the best treatment.