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Bone cancer


Disease: Bone cancer Bone cancer
Category: Tumors

Disease Definition:

Bone cancer is one of the rare types of cancer. This cancer originates in the bone. More than adults, this cancer affects children. 

Primary bone cancer’s most common forms are:


This type usually occurs in the growing bone tissue, and it usually occurs in children, adolescents and young adults, between the ages of ten and twenty.


This type is more common in people over 50 years and it occurs in the cartilage.

Ewing's sarcoma:

This type usually occurs in children, adolescents and young adults, between the ages of ten and twenty. It occurs in immature tissue in the bone marrow.

The type of the bone cancer, its size, location and stage are some of the factors on which treatment for this condition will depend on.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


The most common symptom of bone cancer is pain. Usually, bone cancer occurs in the long bones of the arms and legs, but it could occur in any bone.

Bone cancer may also cause some of these signs and symptoms:


  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Weakened bones, which may lead to fractures
  • In case a tumor is in or near a joint it may cause tenderness and swelling of that joint.


There are two different types of bone cancer: Primary and secondary (metastatic). In secondary or metastatic, the cancer initiates in a different place but spreads (metastasizes) to the bones. For instance, a person with prostate cancer may develop bone lesions. This cancer is still called prostate cancer, despite the fact that it has spread to the bone. 

Primary bone cancer is less common than secondary or metastatic bone cancer. The type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow, which is the soft inner core of the bones that make blood cells, isn't what is meant by primary bone cancer. Acute and chronic leukemias and multiple myeloma are two diseases that are included in bone marrow cancers.

The exact cause of primary bone cancers is still not known. Increased risk of osteosarcoma may arise in adults with Paget's disease of bone, which involves abnormal development of new bone cells.

Bone cancers may have a hereditary component in some cases, some examples are:

Rothmund-Thomson syndrome:

In this condition, the risk of bone cancer is increased due to short stature, skeletal problems and rashes.

Li-Fraumeni syndrome:

One of the characteristics of this syndrome is that it increases the risk of many cancers, such as brain cancer, osteopsarcoma, breast cancer and others.


Radiation and bone cancer go hand in hand. A person doesn't get harmed from exposure to a diagnostic X-ray. However, heavy doses of radiation like in radiation therapy given for other kinds of cancers can increase someone's risk of having bone cancer, especially if they are young when receiving the therapy.

The improvement and sophistication of traditional therapy is leading to fewer side effects. Doctors nowadays are better equipped to regulate doses of radiation and more precisely target the tumor in spot.

Multiple exostoses:

Children with this inherited disorder have an increased risk of chondrosarcoma because this condition causes the formation of cartilage bumps.

Hereditary retinoblastoma:

Children's risk of developing osteosarcoma will increase in case they have hereditary retinoblastoma.



Bone fractures and weakened bones are some of the complications that bone cancer may cause.

Additionally, in case the cancer spreads or metastasizes to other organs, its complications will include the dysfunction of the affected organ; for instance, if the cancer spreads to the lungs, the patient will experience shortness of breath.


Like any other cancer, bone cancer treatment depends on: size, type, place, the patient's overall health and phase of the cancer, whether it spreads to the lungs or other parts of the body.


The most common type of bone cancer treatment is surgery. Surgery to remove the cancer as well as a rim of healthy bone around it may be performed in case the cancer hasn't spread.

In the past, if an arm or leg was affected by bone cancer, amputation was a common thing. But nowadays, limb-sparing surgery is possible thanks to advances in surgical techniques and chemotherapy before surgery, called neoadjuvant chemotherapy, or after surgery, called adjuvant chemotherapy.
Osteosarcoma is a limb-sparing surgery, in which the cancerous bone is replaced with a bone from another part of the patient's body, bone from another patient (transplant) or an artificial device (prosthesis).

Surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists who are familiar with treatment of sarcomas, all forming a well-coordinated team will work on increasing the chances of having limb-sparing treatment.

Treatment may involve surgical removal of both the bone tumor and the metastasized cancer if osteosarcoma expands.

Ewing's sarcoma is usually treated with radiation therapy, chemotherapy with multiple drugs, as well as surgery to remove the primary tumor because this type of cancer has a tendency to metastasize.


Beams of high-energy particles or waves (radiation) such as X-rays or gamma rays are used in radiation therapy to treat cancer. Radiation therapy is also called X-ray therapy or radiotherapy. Even though radiation can affect both healthy and cancerous cells, it does more harm to the cancer cells. Yet, healthy cells can recover from radiation effect quicker than cancer cells.

Radiation therapy is a stage in almost every cancer therapy. The doctor might suggest using radiation at different stages of treatment and for different reasons. For instance:


  • To reduce the size of the cancerous tumor, radiation may be recommended before surgery
  • To prevent growth of remaining cancer cells, radiation may be recommended after surgery.


Sometimes, radiation therapy could be used in combination with chemotherapy. Moreover, to reduce tumors, decrease pressure, pain or other symptoms they may cause, radiation therapy may also be suggested.


In this method, medications are used to fight quickly dividing cells. These dividing cells include cancer cells, as well as healthy rapidly dividing cells like those in the bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive system and hair follicles. Generally, healthy cells recover briefly after the therapy is done, meaning that the patient's hair will start growing again after chemotherapy. 

Chemotherapy differs from radiation therapy in that chemotherapy treats the body systematically, while radiation therapy treats only a specific area of the body. Treating cells that have escaped from where the cancer originated is the goal of chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is used, depending on the type of cancer you have and how grown it is, to:


  • Enhance the patient's quality of life by relieving their symptoms
  • Eliminate all cancer cells in the body, even if the cancer is widespread
  • Make the operation easier by shrinking the cancer before the operation
  • Prolong the patient's life by controlling the growth and spread of the cancer

Chemotherapy may sometimes be the only treatment the patient needs. To improve results, doctors usually use chemotherapy in combination with other treatments, such as radiation or surgery.


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