Types of Bone Cancer
Bone cancer is a rare disease in which cancer cells grow in the bone tissue. Cancer occurs when cells in the body, in this case bone cells, divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated method. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms. This is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.
Cancer may form in the bone or spread to the bone from another site in the body. When cancer starts in bone tissue, it is called primary bone cancer. When cancer cells travel to the bone from another site in the body, it is called secondary or metastatic cancer to the bone. Types of bone cancer include:
- Osteosarcoma—a cancerous tumor of the bone, usually of the arms, legs, or pelvis
- Chondrosarcoma—cancer of the cartilage
- Ewing's sarcoma—tumors that usually develop in the cavity of the leg and arm bones
- Fibrosarcoma and malignant fibrous histiocytoma—cancers that develop in soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments, fat, and muscle, and move to the bones of the legs, arms, and jaw
- Giant cell tumor—a primary bone tumor that is malignant cancerous; most common in the arm or leg bones
- Chordoma—primary bone tumor that usually occurs in the skull or spine
The cause of primary bone cancer is unknown. Genetics play a major role in most cases. Conditions that cause increased bone breakdown and regrowth over an extended period increase the risk of tumor development. This explains why osteosarcoma in children is most common during the adolescent growth spurt.
Factors that can increase your chance of getting bone cancer include:
- Paget's disease —a noncancerous bone condition
- Exposure to radiation
- Family history of bone cancer
Certain types of bone cancer have specific risk factors:
- Age: 10-30 years old
- Sex: male
- Inherited cancer syndromes, including Li-Fraumani and Rothmund-Thompson syndromes
- Retinoblastoma —a rare eye cancer
- Bone marrow transplantation
- Age: older than 20 years old
- Multiple exostoses—an inherited condition that results in bumps on bones
- Ewing’s sarcoma:
- Age: younger than 30 years old
- Fibrosarcoma and malignant fibrous histiocytoma:
- Increased age
- Giant cell tumor:
- Age: young and middle-aged
Symptoms of bone cancer vary, depending on the location and size of the tumor.
Symptoms may include:
- Pain at the tumor location
- Swelling or a lump at the location of the tumor
- Deep bone pain severe enough to wake you up
- Unexplained weight loss
- Trouble breathing
- Fever or night sweats
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
Your doctor may need pictures of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Bone scan
Once cancer is found, staging tests are performed to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent. Treatment depends on the type, stage, and location of the cancer, and your overall health. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation of Tumor
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- Methotrexate with calcium
- Myeloblative Therapy With Stem Cell Support
- Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
- Osteosarcoma—Chemotherapy given before and after surgery will often cure osteosarcoma and can allow for limb-sparing surgery in people who might have otherwise required amputation.
- Ewing’s sarcoma—Since Ewing’s sarcoma is very responsive to chemotherapy, its treatment often involves several weeks of chemotherapy followed by surgical removal or radiation therapy, then several more months of chemotherapy.
- Fibrosarcoma and malignant fibrous histiocytoma—These conditions are usually treated with surgery to remove the cancerous tumor and a one-inch margin of healthy tissue surrounding it.
There are no guidelines for preventing primary bone cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment improve your chance of successful treatment.
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.