Bone cancer is a rare type of cancer. This type of cancer is referred to as primary bone cancer when the disease begins in the bones themselves. When cancer starts in another area of the body and spreads, or metastasizes, to the bones, it is referred to as metastatic or secondary bone cancer. When cancer affects the bone cells, it is more common for this to occur due to secondary causes that have spread from another area in the body rather than from the more rare occurrence of primary bone cancer. There may be no symptoms for this type of cancer. When there is, the most common symptom is pain. This can develop into tenderness near the bone, lumps felt on the bone, fatigue, bone fracture, and weight loss after the initial tumor has spread. Since this type of cancer is so rare, finding facts about bone cancer online can be frustrating.
What Are the Facts about Bone Cancer?
According to information provided by the National Cancer Institute, cancer that begins in the bones accounts for less than 1 percent of all cancer cases. Primary bone cancer most commonly begins in the long bones, such as those in the arms or legs, though it can occur in any bone in the body. There are several different types of cancer that starts in the bones. The most common type of bone cancer is called osteosarcoma. It is more common in children and young adults and is the third leading type of cancer in children. Chondrosarcoma typically begins at the ends of the bones in the cartilage area then moves deeper into the bone tissue. It is more common in adults. Ewing’s sarcoma can begin in the bones or in soft tissues and occur most often in children and teens.
Although any type of primary bone cancer is rare, there are several types that are even more so and are hardly ever seen. Some of these types are so rare, that not much is known about them. These include chordoma and the spindle cell sarcomas: undifferentiated sarcoma of bone, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, fibrosarcoma, and leiomyosarcoma of bone. These very rare types of bone cancer most often occur in adults that are over the age of 40.
Facts about Bone Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
Very little is known about what actually causes primary types of bone cancer. Although mutations in DNA within the cells can lead to the formation of cancer cells, these typically occur during the course of a person’s lifetime and are not genetic in nature. There are, however, certain genetic conditions that are associated with a higher risk of developing primary bone cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. These include:
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Rothmund-Thomson syndrome
- Ollier’s disease
- Paget disease
There are a few other risk factors that have been associated with an increased risk of developing bone cancer. Those who receive radiation treatments or certain types of chemotherapy may later develop primary bone cancer. Individuals who undergo bone marrow transplant have a slightly increased risk, as well as those who have metal implants due to corrective bone surgeries. There may also be an increased risk in those who have a parent who had any one of a number of different types of cancer. It is important to note that everyone who has risk factors for the development of primary bone cancer don’t always develop the disease. In the same manner, some people who have no risk factors at all may still develop the disease.
What Are the Facts about Bone Cancer Diagnosis and Treatments?
Cancer in the bones is typically detected through a series of tests following a physical examination. The physician may order blood tests, however, imaging tests will most likely be used. If cancerous tissue is suspected, this will be confirmed through the use of a biopsy where the physician can examine the tissue cells under a microscope.
When deciding on treatment options for primary bone cancer, the physician will take into account the specific type of bone cancer, the stage of the cancer or far it has spread, and overall health of the patient. Patient preference will be taken into account when possible. Treatments for bone cancer include surgery which may or may not include removal of an affected limb, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted medications, or a combination of these therapies. Surgery removes part or all of an affected bone and may result in loss of a limb. When a large part of a bone is removed, it is often replaced with bone form another area of the body or special implants.
Facts about Bone Cancer Prognosis and Survival Rates
Primary bone cancer can be treated more effectively the earlier it is diagnosed. Survival rate is determined by the amount of people with a specific cancer diagnosis that live at least 5 years after their diagnosis. According to statistics provided by the American Cancer Society and Cancer Research UK, the overall 5 year survival rate for all forms of cancer ranges from 40 percent to 70 percent. This increases to 95 percent for certain cancers that are diagnosed and treated while still in the first stage.
Following cancer treatment, it is important to maintain frequent check ups with the physician to be sure the cancer does not return or has not spread to another area of the body, most frequently the lungs. For the best prognosis, it is important to keep following the physician’s recommendation for nutrition and healthy lifestyle.