What Bone Cancer?
Bone cancer is a type of cancer that affects any bone in the body and especially the pelvis and longer bones like the arms and legs.
Bone cancer that spreads to the bones from other pats of the body is more common than that which starts from the bone. Benign bone tumors are also more common than malignant bone tumours.
You can have higher bone cancer risk due to factors like some inherited genetic syndromes such as hereditary retinoblastoma and going through radiation therapy for cancer, among other factors.
Some of the common symptoms for bone cancer are bone pain, weakened bone, swelling and tenderness of the affected area, among other symptoms.
This cancer can be diagnosed through bone biopsy and imaging tests like bone scan and MRI. The treatment of bone cancer can be done through surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, among other treatment options. You can prevent bone cancer by reducing your risk of the disease.
What causes Bone Cancer?
There is no exact known cause of bone cancer, however, there are a number of factors which can increase the risk for this condition. These are:
- Genetics: Certain inherited genetic syndromes such as hereditary retinoblastoma can increase the risk for bone cancer.
- Chemotherapy and radiotherapy: Having gone through radiotherapy and chemotherapy for cancer in the past can also increase bone cancer risk.
- History of Paget’s disease: Paget’s disease of the bone and other noncancerous bone diseases like fibrous dysplasia can lead to bone cancer risk. Benign tumours can also increase the risk for this cancer.
Symptoms of Bone Cancer
The growth of bone cancer tumour causes pain because the tumour presses against the healthy tissue. Apart from bone pain, a person with bone cancer can also experience:
- Limping if the cancer affects the leg
- Swelling and stiffness of the joint affected by the cancer
- Bone weakness which increases the risk of fracture
- Presence of a lump in the affected area
- Unexplained loss of weight
Diagnosis of Bone Cancer
To diagnose bone cancer, a doctor has to first understand what symptoms a person is experiencing, their medical history and that of their family after which tests can be done. These tests may include:
- Blood tests: These can be used to check for the level of certain components in the blood such as phosphatase which may be higher in people with bone cancer.
- Imaging tests: The different imaging tests used in the diagnosis of bone cancer are; x-ray, Computerised tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Positron emission tomography (Pet) scan. The MRI and PET scans are more advanced and give more detailed images of the tissues inside the body. The PET scan is usually combined with a CT scan making it a PET-CT scan.
- Biopsy: This test involves removal of a small sample of tissue from the tumour which is analysed under a microscope to determine whether there are any cancer cells present.
The treatment of bone cancer depends on the type of bone cancer one has, its stage and a person’s overall health and preferences. The treatments available for this cancer are:
- Surgery: It aims at removing the entire cancerous tumour which is done by removing the tumour and a portion of the surrounding healthy tissue. In cases where the cancer is wide spread and depending on the location and size of the tumour, for instance, in a leg or arm, amputation can be done.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment involves the use of a combination of anticancer drugs to kill the cancer cells, preventing the cancer from growing and dividing.
- Radiation therapy: The use of high-energy beams, directed to the affected area, to destroy the cancer cells and prevent the cancer from spreading.
Prevention of Bone Cancer
As the exact cause of this cancer, like most cancers, is unknown, it can be difficult to know what to do to prevent yourself from developing it. However, you can reduce your risk factors for the disease by:
- Knowing whether you are at a high risk for this cancer. This can be a starting point and you can do this by knowing your family history; whether any of your close family members has had this cancer. If you are at a high risk of developing bone cancer, then you should have regular check-up.
- Living a healthy lifestyle by:
1. Not smoking,
2. Eating healthy; low calorie intake as well as reducing your intake of saturated fats and red meat; instead, incorporating more vegetables and fruits into your diet,
3. Maintaining a healthy weight, and
4. Remaining physically active through exercise.
Though bone cancer may be a rare type of cancer, it is worth knowing about because through early diagnosis, its treatment is more effective, and anyone can be affected by it.