All you should know about bone cancer
Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells. It can develop in any part of the body including bones. When compared to other cancers, bone cancer is relatively less common. According to Cancer Research UK, it is responsible for 380 annual deaths which is less than 1% of all cancer-related deaths in the country.
How does a bone tumour develop?
On the basis of its origin, bone sarcoma can be either primary bone cancer or secondary bone cancer.
Primary bone cancer (osteosarcoma)
Primary bone cancer develops from bone cells and is the most common type of bone cancer that has been reported in young adults (between the age of 10-30 years). Only 10% of cases are reported in elders, 60 years or older. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is a very rare tumour and makes up less than 1% of the diagnosed cancers.
Secondary bone cancer
It starts developing from other tissues and eventually, the cancer cells settle in the bones by travelling through the bloodstream.
But what causes can be considered to be risk factors for a cancerous bone? A person develops bone cancer when the cells in his/her bone begin to multiply continuously resulting in a clump of cells known as a 'bone tumour'. But, what causes the cells to go out of control? The following causes have been noted by Oncologists (the people who study cancer).
Exposure to harmful radiations
If you are continually exposed to harmful radiations, it can destroy the genes in the cells which control the multiplication of the cells. The risk however is very minimal.
You inherit the genes that control the cell division from your parents. The inheritance of a faulty gene will result in bone cancers.
A variety of bone diseases e.g., Paget's Disease also increase the risk of bone cancer.
How would you know if you have bone cancer?
Regardless of the causes, how should you know if you have bone cancer? What signs and symptoms would help you to identify it? The signs and symptoms of bone cancer depends on the degree and stage of cancer and type of affected bone. The most common bone cancer symptoms are;
Pain is a common sign of almost all diseases. So, why to mention it? How the pain of bone cancer will be different? You will feel an ever worsening bone pain in the affected bone. In the start, the pain will be episodic depending upon the use of pain. However, with the passage of time, the pain becomes more and more frequent and almost nearly constant.
The cancer can weaken the bone and it becomes prone to breakage. The pain of a broken bone is among the most unbearable pains.
Bone pain vs muscle pain
The bone pain is different from other pains e.g., muscular pains. It is a deeper and dull pain. You'll feel that you have a pain in deeper regions of the body which is much sharper, intense and focused (to a defined area) as compared to the muscular pain. Such a pain will also last longer and respond poorly to commonly used pain killers.
The most common site of bone cancer are long bones e.g., bones of arms and legs. If cancer develop in these bones, the normal bone tissue will be replaced by an abnormal ball of cells (tumour). You will note a painful swelling in the local area. The inflammation also cause the swelling.
The cancers of internal bones may not leave an observable swelling, nevertheless, an internal swelling will also cause problems e.g., the swelling due to cancers in the neck bones can compromise your breathing or swallowing activity.
Occasionally, the bone cancer starts with a painless swelling on the bone. It doesn't cause any problem, however, it's excessive growth can hinder your movements.
If the cancer develops near a joint, it can make your movements extremely painful and difficult. The body will mark the tumor as foreign body and will reach against it. As a result, the healthy bone tissue also becomes inflamed and painful.
Some other signs
Besides the most common signs, some other signs can also be noted e.g.,
A weight loss in the absence of any cause should raise your suspicion.
The inflammation due to cancer can increase your body temperature and you may feel sweating.
The pathological fracture are the fractures which occur due to some other underlying diseases. The bone cancer can sometimes make bone brittle and more prone to break.
Feeling of tiredness in the absence of any cause should not be ignored.
What to do if you have signs of bone cancer?
You can develop bone cancer if you are exposed to the causative agents. First of all, try to figure out what type of bone cancer you have. It could be osteosarcoma (in children and young adults 20), Ewing sarcoma (in children under 10) or chondrosarcoma (if you are an adult of 40 years of more).
Immediately go to a healthcare professional. He/ she will grade and stage your cancer and will start bone cancer treatment accordingly. The treatment of a bone cancer usually involves;
Radiation therapy, in which high energy radiations are used to obliterate the cancerous cells.
Chemotherapy, in which medicines are used to destroy cancerous cells.
Surgery, in which the severely effected bone is surgically amputated.
The primary bone cancers are less dangerous than the secondary which are more common.
Bone tumours develop due to a variety of causes. However, a history of persistent bone pain combined with other signs e.g., extra bone growth, tiredness, weight loss, fever etc. should alert you about the possibility of bone cancer. In the presence of such complaints, rush to your doctor for further medical assistance.
According to American Cancer Society, you can do little to avoid bone cancer except voiding unnecessary exposure to dangerous radiations. However, it would be wise to take foods rich in calcium, vitamin D and other minerals which are essential for healthy bones. Ensure a good quality nutrition for your children in the growing age.
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