Bone cancer is an all-encompassing term which comprises of various forms of the disease. Its definition is further refined on the basis of location of origin. Cancer which begins in the bone itself (a relatively rare phenomenon) is termed as primary bone cancer or sarcoma. The most prevalent sarcomas are osteosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma and chondrosarcoma. Alternatively, secondary or metastatic bone cancer is cancer which originally inflicts another organ and then metastasizes or spreads to the bone tissue. It has to be understood that not all forms of cancer are malignant, some may be benign. This with numerous forms that this affliction can take as well as differences size and location of the tumour leads to a significant variance in bone cancer symptoms.
The most commonly observed bone cancer symptom is pain. The general sites of occurrence are the long bones of the body (mostly arms and legs). Although known occur in both children and adults, young children are notably more prone to it. Severity of the pain is known to gradually increase over time depending upon the progression of the cancer.
Another detected bone cancer symptom is a mass or lump on the bone or the surrounding tissues. Joint tenderness, inflammation, swelling or stiffness as well as incidence of pathological fractures due to bone weakness are other tell-tale signs of bone cancer. These fractures are unexplained and result from little or no trauma. Cases of fractures due to standing on the affected bone have also been documented. Loss of range of motion that does not return is another symptom that requires investigation.
Other imprecise bone cancer symptoms take the form of fatigue, fever, weight loss, chills, night sweats and anaemia.
Even in case of benign bone cancer, the bone may become brittle. The person may also experience considerable pain and sometimes numbness.
This includes numerous imaging tests like X-ray, MRI, and bone scans. However the most important diagnostic tool is a bone biopsy which involves removal and examination of the affected bone tissue. Performing this procedure on a patient of primary bone cancer is wrought with the risk of worsening the spread of the cancer.
Factors outlined above which cause variations in bone cancer symptoms are also responsible for the choice of treatment. The following are the treatment options open for patients which can be used exclusively or in combination depending on case specifics.
- Surgery: Aims to remove the tumour and the surrounding area of the normal bone which should encase the whole tumour for 100% success
- Chemotherapy: Uses drugs to hinder the growth of cancer cells; it is often used in conjunction with surgery for best results.
- Radiation Therapy: Comprises of high energy X-rays to destroy the cancer cells; also used before or after surgery.
Each treatment plan comes with its own batch of risks and side effects. The best possible solution is unique for each case and can only be arrived at after considering all details.
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