To better understand treatment for bone cancer, it is best to start knowing more about the disease first. Bone cancer that originates from the bone itself is very rare. The more common form of bone cancer is a metastatic cancer in the bone where the cancer came from other locations like the breast (as a result of a metastatic breast cancer). Bone cancer that resulted from mutated bone building cells are not at all common and are often diagnosed in children and teens. The explanation for this trend is that kids and teens are growing faster and with that is rapid bone activity and growth exposing young people to higher risk of developing this specific kind of cancer. Bone cancer is also common to individuals whose family line had cases of the same cancer from previous generations. The good news is bone cancer is treatable. In fact there are now a lot of bone cancer treatment options available to those who have the disease. The secret to high success in bone cancer treatment is early detection and effective intervention. When the cancer is caught early there are more options to the patient, one of which is surgery which can be very effective in arresting the spread and progression of the disease.
Bone cancer symptoms are few and it often starts with pain in the lower knee or in the upper arm. Pain can also be felt on other bones like in the thigh and the lower arm area. The shoulder blades can also be a “hot spot” for bone cancer. The pain that is often identified with bone cancer is nagging and progressive. Meaning the pain gets worst over time and can wake up sufferers in the middle of the night. Bone cancer pain can also be felt either in the middle of rigorous physical activity or while in the couch doing nothing.
The pain can be accompanied by a lump in the area where it is most pronounced and swelling is also very common. These physical symptoms come in late and should be a very good reason to consult the doctor immediately.
Diagnosing Bone Cancer
Bone cancer can easily be diagnosed. It must be understood that without timely diagnosis effective treatment plans cannot be implemented. Bone cancer treatment prognosis would depend heavily on the effective diagnosis and the classification and staging of the bone cancer.
- The most basic diagnostic process a doctor can do for bone cancer patients is a thorough review of the patient’s medical history. This can include an interview for the early and late symptoms felt by the patient.
- X-ray is the often the second step in diagnosing bone cancer. X-ray can detect tumor growth in the bone and can identify it as benign or malignant. Benign tumors would look rounded in the X-ray while malignant ones would appear to have a rough outer edge. X-ray is also a good way to see fractures in the bone possibly caused by its weakening due to the cancer progressing inside its structure.
- A CAT scan can be done if the X-ray do not provide for a clear picture of the tumor. CAT scans can provide for cross sectional imaging of the body making it easier for doctors to see the exact location of the tumor and also its size.
- An MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is used to better see the surrounding soft tissue of the affected bone and whether the cancer has spread to its immediate surroundings. This can be a key diagnostic tool for a metastatic bone cancer treatment planning.
- A bone scan can also be recommended by the doctor to better see the overall health of the bones or if the cancer has spread to other areas often seen in last stage bone cancer.
- A bone biopsy is a test that can finally find out for sure if the tumor is cancerous or not. The procedure will remove a sample from the tumor for a closer look by a pathologist. A bone biopsy can be through a needle biopsy (less invasive) and incisional biopsy which means an incision will have to be made in the skin to access the tumor in the bone.
Treatment of Bone Cancer
There are three major bone marrow cancer treatment options and these are:
- Surgery – bone cancer surgery is done to salvage a limb, to remove only the affected part of the bone. But it can also mean limb amputation that completely removes a limb in the hopes of getting rid of the cancer for good. Surgery is not often considered as a treatment for metastatic bone cancer because it cannot possibly remove all affected areas of a spreading cancer. Surgery however is very effective in early stage cancer where sacrificing a limb can still be very doable in exchange of stopping the spread of the disease.
- Chemotherapy – chemotherapy can be used before and after surgery to shrink the cancer for easier extraction and to finish off remaining cancer cells after the surgery. A medical oncologist can give you oral or intravenous chemo drugs to fight off the cancer. Chemotherapy can be used both in early and late stage cancer. Chemotherapy together with radiation therapy is the most common approach for secondary bone cancer treatment.
- Radiation therapy – this treatment option uses concentrated X-ray to the affected bone to neutralize the cancer cells. This is done before and after surgery to increase the chances of survival of the patient. Radiation therapy is a preferred breast cancer bone metastasis treatment.
There is really no bone cancer alternative treatment that has been proven effective in clinical trials so it is important to stick with medical treatment options that have a proven record of helping patients to be cancer-free. It is also important to note that alternative or bone cancer natural treatment should not replace or override on-going treatments that are sanctioned by doctors.
Bone cancer treatment and prognosis figures can be as high as 80% for early stage cancer and as low as 19% for late stage bone cancer.