Bone Cancer

Overview

Bone cancer occurs in three forms – Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma – and can be primary or secondary. Secondary bone cancer is much more common than primary and often occurs when cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, thyroid and kidney metastasize. These cancers most often form in the long bones, but can be present in any part of the skeleton. Pain is the most common symptom. Though surgery is most commonly used to treat bone cancers, other treatment options are available. Due to the risk of reoccurrence, continued monitoring is necessary, and doctors and scientists continue to research treatment options.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Bone cancer presents several symptoms; however, the most common is bone pain that increases in intensity over time. Swelling, unexplained broken bones, fever, fatigue, anemia and unintended weight loss may also indicate bone cancer.

Doctors conduct diagnosis of bone cancer in many ways. Imaging tests such as bone and CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography and x-rays can help find the presence, size and site of tumors. A biopsy is completed to determine if the tumor is benign or cancerous. A biopsy can be conducted through minimally invasive needle insertion or through surgery. Biopsy is carefully planned and carried out to ensure that it does not interfere if further surgeries are required.

Cancer is staged as part of the diagnosis. Staging identifies the extent and aggressiveness of the cancer so that doctors can recommend the proper course of treatment. Doctors consider Stage I cancer non-aggressive, as it is limited to one site. Stage II cancer has not yet spread, but is more aggressive and may spread quickly. Stage III cancer is more advanced and has spread to more than one place along the bone. By Stage IV, the bone cancer has metastasized to other areas of the body.

Causes

Doctors know that certain mutations in the DNA of a cell cause cancer, however the exact mechanism is unclear. These mutations cause the overgrowth of unhealthy cells that can invade other tissues or cause a mass or tumor.  Continue for Treatment and Prevention information . . .

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