What is bone cancer?
Bone cancer is a rare type of cancer. It can affect young children, teenagers and adults alike. Bone pain and fractures are usually the associated clinical signs.
We distinguish cancer from bones of primary importance, of that of secondary importance. The first form directly attacks the bones of the body. The second is the origin of the spread of a tumor, from another part of the body.
Added to this, several types of bone cancers are to be differentiated:
- osteosarcoma : the most widespread bone cancer, most commonly affecting children and young adults (under 20 years of age)
- Ewing’s sarcoma : affecting more people aged 10 to 20
- chondrosarcoma , concerning, meanwhile, people whose age is over 40 years.
Young patients (children and pre-adolescents) affected by this type of cancer may have a rapid spread of this disease, particularly during the puberty period. In this sense, this extent of cancer can interfere with the development of the entire skeleton.
These different forms of bone cancer can affect various parts of the body and different cells. In this sense, the clinical signs as well as the treatments adopted will depend on the type of bone cancer.
Causes of bone cancer
In most cases of bone cancer, the exact origin is unknown.
Nevertheless, factors may be a source of increased risk of developing such cancer. Among these, we can note:
- exposure to radiation, as part of a treatment with radiotherapy for example
- the presence of underlying bone disease. Especially Paget’s disease
- genetic factors, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, reflecting the absence of a gene allowing the body to fight against the development of cancer cells.
Who is affected by bone cancer?
Each person can be impacted by such a cancer.
Some types of bone cancer affect more young people (osteosarcoma or Ewing’s sarcoma) and others the older (chondrosarcoma).
However, certain parameters can induce the development of such a cancer: radiotherapy, genetics, bone disease, etc.
The symptoms of bone cancer
Bone cancer can affect different bones at different parts of the body.
In the more general case, it affects the long bones of the legs and forearms. Nevertheless, other bodily locations are not to be excluded.
The symptoms most often found are then:
- bone pain, more and more intense over time and persisting at night
- swelling and inflammation in the affected area. These can induce difficulties in body movements, especially if the inflammation is close to the ligaments
- notable formation of a nodule at the level of the bone
- weakness in skeletal resistance (increased risk of fractures).
A child complaining of such symptoms should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible, to avoid possible consequences on its development and growth.
Certain risk factors can induce, to a greater or lesser extent, the development of such a cancer. These include: exposure to radiation, genetic factors or some underlying conditions.
Diagnostic of bone cancer
Generally, it is at the end of a bone fracture or significant pain in the bones that the first clinical diagnosis is effective.
An X-ray then makes it possible to highlight a characteristic abnormality of bone cancer.
Other complementary medical examinations may also be prescribed as part of a confirmation or a reversal of the disease, but also to determine the degree of spread of the cancer.
Among these :
- the bone scan ,
- the scanner,
- positron emission tomography.
Biological signs may also indicate bone cancer. These parameters are then measured through blood or urine tests. Hypercalcemia, the presence of tumor markers or markers of inflammation may be significant for such a cancer.
In order to know more about the probable origin of the cancer, the use of the biopsy is also possible.
Treatments of bone cancer
The management and treatment of such a cancer depends on the type of cancer and its level of spread.
In most cases, the treatment results in:
- a surgical procedure, allowing the removal of a part of the affected area. In this context, it is also often possible to replace this part but amputation can also be the last solution
- chemotherapy, the treatment most often used in the treatment of cancers
- radiotherapy, using radiation to destroy cancer cells.
In some cases of osteosarcoma, additional medication (mifamurtide) may also be prescribed.