Bone cancer

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Bone cancer is one of the most uncommon form of cancer that can affect any bone in the body. It destroys healthy bone tissue and forms a malignant bone tumors.




There are two types of bone cancer. The malignant tumors that start in bone tissue are considered as primary bone cancer. Cancer that transmits to the bones from other parts of the body, such as the breast, lung, or prostate, is called metastatic bone cancer.

Common types of primary bone cancer include:

  • Osteosarcoma - Starts from the osteoid tissue in the bone. This tumor are often found in the knee and upper arm.

Signs and symptoms

The most common symptom of bone cancer is pain. Sometimes a firm, slightly tender lump on the bone can be felt through the skin and can even cause breakage. Most patients with bone cancer presented persistent pain, swelling, and tenderness of the bone with unexplained fractures.

Causes and risk factors

At present, bone cancer does not have a clearly defined cause. However, there are several identified several factors that increase the possibilities of developing these tumors according to research. Some people who have had high-dose external radiation therapy or treatment with certain anticancer drugs are more susceptible. Some are also hereditary.

Diagnosis and tests

To help diagnose bone cancer, the following tests are done:

  • Physical examination
  • X-rays - This can show the location, size, and shape of a bone tumor.
  • Bone scan - A test in which a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream. It then collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan - A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles, that are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure - Uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body without using x-rays.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan - A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is used.
  • Biopsy - Removal of a tissue sample from the bone tumor to determine whether cancer is present.
  • Blood tests to determine the level of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase.


Options to treat bone cancer depend on the type, size, location, and stage of the cancer, as well as the patientÆs age and general health. In most cases, the initial treatment is surgery. Although amputation of a limb is sometimes necessary, pre- or post-operative chemotherapy has made limb-sparing surgery possible in many cases. When appropriate, surgeons avoid amputation by removing only the cancerous section of the bone and replacing it with an artificial device called a prosthesis.

Chemotherapy and radiation may also be used alone or in combination. Other treatments include multidrug chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Possible complications

There are many complications associated to bone cancer. Aside from pain being the most common complication, there are side effects associated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Other complications of the disease are fractures, increased blood calcium, osteomyelitis and metastasis. Bone cancer surgery may cause amputation, shock, hemorrhage and wound infection. Meanwhile, chemotherapy may cause nausea and vomiting because of intestinal problems, loss of hair, fatigue and weariness, increased bruising and bleeding, anemia or low blood counts, infection, loss of appetite and weight loss, and soreness of the mouth, gums, and throat.

Prevention and control

Currently, there are no known changes in lifestyle that can be made to prevent bone cancer. The risk of getting bone cancer depends on family history and, to some extent, on whether you have been exposed to heavy doses of radiation as part of treatment for another disease. It is suggested to go to the doctor immediately when symptoms occur because it is easier to treat cancer when detected at an early stage. It is best to complete all treatments to prevent it from spreading causing another form of disease.

Cases in the Philippines

In the Philippines, osteosarcoma is the most common of all malignant bone tumors. Most affected are people of age 60 and above. It is the 24th leading cancer site overall, 18th in males, and 21st among females.


  • "Bone Cancer" (Accessed 22 November 2010)