Bone cancer occurs when bone cells grow uncontrollably. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells do not stop reproducing after they have doubled 50-60 times. These abnormal cells form clumps of tissue, called tumors, inside bones. The first symptom of bone cancer is typically pain in the affected bone(s). Sometimes, a bump either on the bone or in the tissues surrounding the bone may be felt.
Primary bone cancer, or cancer that starts in the bone cells, is rare. Fewer than 2,500 Americans are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year. Children are more likely to develop primary bone cancer than adults.
Most cases of bone cancer occur when cancer from another part of the body, such as breast, prostate, or lung, has spread to bone cells. This is sometimes called
metastatic bone cancer or secondary bone cancer.
The most common types of bone cancer are osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing's sarcoma. These cancers can be primary or secondary cancer.
Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer, primarily develops in growing bones, and it usually affects people between the ages of 10 and 25. This aggressive type of bone cancer often affects the arms and legs, particularly the knees and shoulders of children. In some cases, osteosarcoma spreads to the lungs. About 65% of people with osteosarcoma survive five years after diagnosis.
Chondrosarcoma: Chondrosarcoma develops in the cartilage. It often affects the bones in the pelvis and hips. It is most common among people who are 50 years of age or older, and it is slightly more common in males than females. Chondrosarcoma is the second most common bone cancer, accounting for about 25% of all cancerous bone tumors. The five-year survival for the aggressive form of chondrosarcoma is about 30%, and the five-year survival rate for slow-growing tumors is about 90%.
Ewing's sarcoma: Ewing's sarcoma develops in the nerve tissue in bone marrow of children who are 4-15 years old. It is very rare in people who are older than 30 years of age. Ewing's sarcoma often develops after a person undergoes treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy, for another type of cancer. Ewing's sarcoma is the most aggressive bone cancer. It typically affects the middle of the long bones in the arms and legs. The three-year survival rate is about 65%, but this rate is much lower if the cancer has spread to the lungs or other parts of the body.
Surgery is often the main treatment for bone cancer. In addition to having bone tumors surgically removed, patients may also undergo chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. In some cases, patients may need to undergo a surgical amputation, but this is performed less often today. Specific treatment options depend on the type of bone cancer, as well as its location, size, and stage.
In general, the prognosis for patients with bone cancer is based on many factors, including the type of cancer, at what stage the cancer was discovered, and where the tumor is located. For instance, if the tumor is small and limited to a localized area, the patient's prognosis is generally better than if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
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