Rib Bone Cancer: A Brief Overview
Cancer has been known since the advent of medical science and is presumably as old as life itself. Cancer was first mentioned in an Egyptian document known as the Edwin Smith papyrus more than 3,000 years ago. Later, Hippocrates described a number of cancers. As medical knowledge of cancer developed, more and more types of cancer have been identified.
Rib bone cancer is the presence of malignant tumors on the rib bones. Primary rib bone cancer is exceedingly rare and most instances of cancer of the rib bones are secondary. That is to say, cancers of the breast, lymphomas, and other types of cancer metastasize, resulting in secondary cancer of the rib bones. The most common cancers that result in secondary rib cancer include breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, and thyroid cancer.
What are Bones?
In order to understand rib bone cancer, you first have to understand what bones are. Made up of millions of individual cells, all of the bones in the body are both alive and physiologically active. With each passing moment, the bones that support our bodies are being broken down and replaced with new bone tissue in a process called osteogenesis. Likewise, the cells of virtually every other tissue in the body are constantly being replaced with new cells. The only exceptions to this frenzied process of regeneration are the eyes and the brain.
How Does Cancer of the Rib Bones Occur?
Cancer is the proliferation of abnormal cells that invade healthy tissue. As you read, most of the cells of the body are constantly being replaced by new cells. Cancer happens when a new cell contains damaged genetic material. These diseased cells replicate uncontrollably, invading healthy tissue as it spreads. In the case of metastatic breast cancer, rib bones are invaded by unhealthy (cancerous) cells from the breast.
What are the Symptoms of Rib Cancer?
Like the symptoms of other forms of cancer, many rib cancer symptoms are non-specific. Non-specific symptoms are symptoms that could be caused by a number of different conditions and that do not clearly indicate the presence of any specific disease. Nonetheless, if you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical advice as soon as possible:
– Unexplained Weight Loss
– Diminished Appetite
– General feeling of malaise
Another common symptom of rib cancer is bone pain near the cancer.
Rib Cancer Diagnosis
Rib cancer can be diagnosed using a variety of radiological tests, by surgical biopsy, or even with a simple blood test. X-ray and bone scans remain the most reliable method of diagnosing rib cancer, though advanced imaging technologies such as computed axial tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and Positron Emission Tomography are often used to assess the severity of rib cancer and to monitor treatment response.
Rib Cancer Treatment
Surgery is the most common treatment modality for those suffering from bone cancers including cancer of the rib bones. In cases where surgery is not advisable, or in conjunction with surgery, patients will also likely undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy is the use of cytotoxic drugs to kill cancer cells. The only bone cancer not typically treated with chemotherapy is chondrosarcoma.
Radiotherapy is the use of very high powered x-rays to kill cancer cells. This is the primary method of treating chondrosarcoma and is also used as a primary treatment modality of rib cancer for patients who refuse surgery.
Can Rib Cancer be Prevented?
Unfortunately, there are currently no proven methods of preventing rib cancer. However, maintaining an active lifestyle and avoiding behaviors known to cause cancer such as tobacco smoking can dramatically reduce an individual’s overall risk of developing any cancer.
One of the best things an individual can do to help ensure survival if cancer does develop is to get regular cancer screenings. Early detection of rib cancer can dramatically improve the odds of successful treatment.