Bone cancer refers to cancer that originates in the bone and may spread to other parts of the body. It most commonly affects the long bones of the legs or arms though any bone may be involved. Bone cancer most commonly affects adults over age 40.
The different types of bone cancers include:
- Osteosarcoma, which originates in the bone cells, is seen in children and young adults and usually affects the legs or arms.
- Chondrosarcoma, which originates in the cartilage cells, is seen in middle aged or older adults, and usually affects the pelvis, arms or legs.
- Ewing’s sarcoma, which originates in the pelvis, arms and legs of children and young adults.
Though the exact cause of bone cancer is unclear, it may be due to accumulation of mutated cells which form a tumor in the bone. The tumor may either invade surrounding structures or spread to different areas of the body. The contributing risk factors include inherited genetic defects, Paget’s disease of the bone and exposure to large doses of radiation.
Common symptoms of bone cancer include bone pain, swelling, increased tendency to fracture, tiredness and unintended weight loss.
Diagnosis of bone cancer is based on symptoms and imaging studies such as X-rays, bone scans, CT scans and MRI scans. A sample of bone tissue may be obtained for examination in the laboratory (biopsy) to identify the type of cancer.
Staging of cancer helps to plan the treatment:
- Stage I: Low grade, less aggressive, has not spread to other areas.
- Stage II: High grade, more aggressive, has not spread to other areas.
- Stage III: Cancer is found in two or more places of the same bone.
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
Treatment includes surgical removal of the tumor with healthy margins. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy is recommended if complete surgical removal of the soft tissue sarcoma is not possible or the cancer has spread.