According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3,000 people are newly diagnosed with cancer of the bones and joints each year. By the end of 2013, bone cancer is expected to claim the lives of about 1,440 patients. Nonetheless, primary bone cancer is one of the rarest cancers, accounting for only .2 percent of all cancer cases worldwide.
What is Cancer?
Cancer has become a household word in recent decades thanks to the dissemination of patient education by hospitals, doctor’s offices, and even the media, but few laymen understand what cancer is or why it causes so much damage in the human body. “Cancer” can be aptly defined as a disease caused by the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body. Where do these abnormal cells come from? Cell division is a normal part of homeostasis. Bones, for example, are constantly being broken down by specialized cells called osteoclasts and rebuilt by specialized cells called osteoblasts. Under normal conditions, the amount of old bone tissue destroyed equals the amount of new bone tissue created. Sometimes, though, the body makes a mistake. The new bone tissue that it creates contains a genetic disparity, one that disturbs the way the bone tissue performs its normal functions. The unhealthy cells divide and rather than building new healthy bone tissue, tumors develop. If the unhealthy cells originated in the bone, the disease is called primary bone cancer.
Sometimes, in a process called metastasis, the unhealthy cells are transported via the circulatory system or the lymphatic system to other parts of the body. An example of this would be lung cancer that has spread to the bones, in which case the bone cancer would be considered secondary. Specialists can confirm that a cancer is primary or secondary by examining the cells under a microscope. If there are abnormal lung cells in the bones, for example, the diagnosis would be metastatic lung cancer or secondary bone cancer.
What Causes Bone Cancer?
Despite the billions of dollars spent annually on cancer research, the cause of bone cancer remains a mystery. A number of risk factors have been identified and scientists have also determined that some chemicals, called carcinogens, can potentially cause a variety of different cancers, but no single agent has been identified as the sole cause of bone cancer. Factors such as lifestyle, overall fitness, genetic makeup, and past medical history can all predispose an individual toward cancer.
Bone Cancer Prevention
Bone cancer prevention efforts should be geared at improving the general health of the individual and avoiding contact with carcinogens. Strategies known to reduce the risk of virtually all types of cancer include regular exercise, avoidance of tobacco and alcohol, reducing day-to-day stress, and eating a healthy diet. Though frequent bone cancer screenings won’t prevent the onset of bone cancer, it can help detect it sooner. Generally speaking, early detection of any cancer can dramatically improve the prognosis.
Unfortunately, asking how do you prevent bone cancer is a lot like asking how a person can prevent a vehicular accident. That is to say, there are a number of factors involved in the development of cancer that scientists just haven’t yet discovered. If you’re interested in maximizing your life expectancy and improving the odds of overcoming bone cancer, you should focus on eating right, exercising on a regular basis, reducing stress as much as humanly possible, and doing everything you can to boost the immune system. Since the immune system is your body’s first line of defense against any cancer, getting enough sleep each night and ensuring that you receive the nutrients and vitamins your body needs should be your upmost priority.
Learn More About Bone Cancer
Rather than asking how do you prevent bone cancer, you should invest the time to learn more about bone cancer so that you can recognize the symptoms and seek treatment as soon as possible. Early detection is often a patient’s best chance at overcoming bone cancer.
Bone Cancer symptoms include:
– Swelling or tenderness of the joints
– Weight Loss
– Decreased Appetite
– Dull, aching bone or joint pains
It’s important to note that the symptoms of bone cancer are often non-specific, which means that a number of less severe conditions can cause the above symptoms. The information provided here should not be taken as expert medical advice. If you experience several or all of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your physician.
People who have been exposed to radiation and carcinogens, those over the age of 65, individuals of African American descent, and those with a family history of bone cancer are at a greater risk of developing bone cancer than the general population. If you meet any of the above criteria, getting bone cancer screenings at least once every few years is highly recommended.
Preventing bone cancer, or any other cancer, is generally an unrealistic goal. While maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle can lower the overall risk of developing a cancer, a number of causative factors are out of your control, such as genetic predisposition and accidental exposure to potentially cancer-causing chemicals. Visit your physician regularly, know the early warning signs of cancer, and get screened as often as possible. Early detection can mean the difference between winning the battle against cancer and getting diagnosed too late for treatment to be feasible.
For more information about bone cancer, see the following resources: