Cancer of the bone or bone cancer is a general term used when cancer cells are seen in the bone. Cancer that begins in the bone is called primary bone cancer. It is found most often in the arms and legs but it can occur in any bone in the body. Children and young people are more likely than adults to have bone cancers.
Primary bone cancers are called sarcomas. There are several different types of sarcoma and each type begins in a different kind of bone tissue. The most common sarcomas are osteosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, and chondrosarcoma.
In young people, the most common type of bone cancer is osteosarcoma, usually occurring between the ages of ten and twenty-five. More often, males are affected than females. Osteosarcoma frequently starts in the ends of the bones; where new bone tissue forms as a young person grows, usually affecting the long bones of the arms and legs. Ewing’s sarcoma usually affects teenagers, and is mostly found in people between ten and twenty-five years old.
This cancer forms in the middle part (shaft) of large bones and most often affects the hip bones and long bones in the thigh and upper arm, but can also occur in the ribs. Chondrosarcoma is a type of tumor that forms in the cartilage (rubbery tissue around the joints) and are found mainly in adults. Other types of bone cancer include fibrosarcoma (malignant giant cell tumor) and chordoma. These are rare cancers and most often affects people over thirty.
The most common symptom of bone cancer is pain. However, symptoms may vary depending on the location and size of the cancer. Sometimes firm, slightly tender lump on the bone can be felt through the skin. Sometimes bone cancer interferes with normal movements and can also weaken or cause bones to break. Tumors that occur in or near joints may cause swelling and tenderness in the affected area. Other symptoms may include fatigue, fever, weight loss, and anemia. It is important to check with a doctor when you experience these symptoms, but these symptoms can also be caused by other less serious conditions.
Treatment for some bone tumors may involve surgery, such as limb amputation. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are effective in some tumors (such as Ewing’s sarcoma) but less so in others (such as chondrosarcoma). After treatment has been done for bone cancer, it is very important that regular follow-up or check-ups are done with your doctor, to be sure that cancer has not come back and treat it promptly if it does. Check-ups may be physical exam, x-rays, scans, blood tests, and other laboratory tests.
People who have been diagnosed of bone cancer may have many physical, emotional, practical worries. They may worry that removal of a limb or other surgery will affect not only how they look but how other people would feel about them. Patients can be helped to overcome all these through special support groups for youngsters with cancer and their families. The American Cancer Society, for example, is a nonprofit organization that has many services for patients and their familes.