What is bone cancer? What are the symptoms and treatment methods of bone cancer?
Bone cancer is a very rare type of malignant tumor. Only one of the 100 cancers that develop is caused by a bone tumor. Bone cancer can start in any bone in the body but most commonly affects the pelvis or long bones in the arms and legs. In addition, benign bone tumors are much more common than malignant ones. Bone cancer can spread to neighboring structures and distant organs such as the lungs. Some types of bone cancer occur primarily in children, while other types mostly affect adults.
What is Bone Cancer?
Bone cancers are malignant tumors that develop in the skeletal system and cause tissue destruction there. Cancers that start in the bone or joint cartilage are called primary bone cancer. The term “primary bone cancer” does not include cancers that begin elsewhere in the body and spread (metastasize) to the bone.
These types of cancers are named according to the organ or tissue in which they started, such as breast cancer that has metastasized to the bone. These are also called secondary bone cancer. However, it should be kept in mind that only primary bone cancers are meant when bone cancer is mentioned. The usual treatment for bone cancer is surgery. Positive results can often be achieved following early diagnosis and treatment.
What Causes Bone Cancer?
In most cases, it is unknown why a person develops bone cancer. However, there are some factors that increase the risk of bone cancer. Some of these factors can be listed as follows:
- Having previously received radiotherapy for another reason
Individuals with Paget’s disease of the bone, a disease characterized by disruption in the bone regeneration cycle
- People with a rare genetic condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome – these patients have a mutation in a gene that normally suppresses the growth of cancerous cells.
- People who had an eye cancer called retinoblastoma in childhood are more likely to develop bone cancer. This may be because the same inherited faulty gene is responsible for both conditions.
- Studies have found that babies born with an umbilical hernia are 3 times more likely to develop bone cancer in the type of Ewing’s sarcoma.
What Are the Symptoms of Bone Cancer?
Unfortunately, malignant tumors of the bone are often discovered late because the symptoms are often vague. Bone cancer is characterized by pain and swelling. Both symptoms can have many other causes, such as sports injury or osteoarthritis. Often, parents whose children complain of leg or arm pain primarily think that it is due to growth and development. However, growth-related pain is usually seen only at night, while the symptoms of malignant bone tumors increase continuously and continue throughout the day. For this reason, individuals who have continuous bone pain during the day should see a doctor immediately. The most common symptoms of bone cancer can be listed as follows:
- Persistent bone pain that worsens over time and continues at night
- Inflammation causing swelling, redness and tenderness around the affected area
- Limited range of motion if the affected bone is close to the joint
- Weakening of the bones that causes them to break more easily than normal
- A prominent lump on the bone
- Involuntary weight loss
Types of Bone Cancer
Bone cancers are divided into subtypes based on the type of cell in which the cancer started. The most common types of bone cancer are:
Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer. It originates from bone cells, also called osteoblasts. In this group of tumors, cancerous cells produce bone tissue. It occurs mostly in children and young adults, in the bones of the legs or arms. In rare cases, osteosarcomas can occur in tissues other than bone. These are called extraskeletal osteosarcomas. Those with Paget’s disease of the bone, a disease characterized by excessive bone growth, have an increased risk of osteosarcoma.
Chondrosarcoma: The second most common form of bone cancer. These tumors start in the articular cartilage and spread to the bone. In chondrosarcoma, cancerous cells produce cartilage tissue. It usually occurs in the pelvis, legs, or arms in middle-aged and older adults.
Ewing sarcoma: This group of tumors most commonly occurs in the pelvis, leg, or arm bones of children and young adults. Apart from bone, it can also develop in soft tissues such as fat, muscle or blood vessels.
What is Bone Marrow Cancer?
The spongy structure in the middle of the bone is called the bone marrow. Cancers arising in the bone marrow cause symptoms similar to bone cancers, such as bone pain in the skeletal system and easy fracture in the bones. Multiple myeloma, the most common type of bone marrow cancer, is a type of blood cancer that can cause one or more bone lesions.
How Is Bone Cancer Treated?
The type of treatment preferred in bone cancer depends on several factors. These factors are:
- Type of bone cancer
- Location of cancer in the body
- How aggressive the cancer is
- Whether it has spread
Preferred methods of treating bone cancer include:
Surgical treatment: Surgical treatment is aimed at removing the cancer and surrounding bone tissue. It is the most common form of treatment for bone cancer. For a complete cure, the cancerous cells must be completely removed by surgery. If some of the cancer tissue is not removed, the mass may continue to grow and eventually spread. In this case, additional treatments such as radiotherapy may be necessary. Limb-sparing surgery or limb salvage surgery means performing surgical intervention without amputation of the limb.
However, after the procedure, the person may need reconstructive surgery (correction surgery) to be able to use the involved arm or leg again. For this purpose, bone from another part of the body or an artificial bone can be used to replace the removed bone. However, in some cases, it is not possible to completely remove the cancerous tissue with limb-sparing surgery. In this case, the cancerous limb may need to be amputated. However, as surgical methods develop, this situation is increasingly rare.
Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy is widely used in the treatment of many types of cancer. In this method, cancer cells are targeted with high-energy X-rays. Radiotherapy can be given in addition to surgery, or it can be given alone to patients who do not need surgery. It is the standard treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma. In other bone cancers, it is given as part of combination therapy. Combination therapy is the administration of radiotherapy in addition to another type of treatment. This method may have more effective results in some cases.
Chemotherapy: It involves using powerful drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is usually given to patients with Eving’s sarcoma or newly diagnosed osteosarcoma. In addition, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be preferred together.
Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that uses drugs that target and interact with a molecule that causes cancer cells to grow. It is a method that can be used in patients with osteosarcoma and can be given to the patient in addition to other treatment options.