Bone Cancer Symptoms: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Bone Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Bone Cancer Symptoms

Bone cancer can begin in any bone in the body, but it most commonly affects the pelvis or the long bones in the arms and legs. Not all bone tumors are cancerous. The majority of cancer involving the bones is metastatic, or secondary, disease from other remote cancers.

Bone cancer is rare, making up less than 1 percent of all cancers. In fact, noncancerous bone tumors are much more common than cancerous ones.

Let us understand why & how battling the cancer cells are tough?

Cancer begins when healthy cells in the bone change and grow out of control, forming a mass called a tumor. A bone tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A malignant tumour can destroy the cortex and spread to nearby tissue.

Unlike other cancers, bone cancer typically doesn’t spread easily across the body.

Instead, those cancers are named for where they began, such as breast cancer that has metastasized to the bone.

Some types of bone cancer occur primarily in children, while others affect mostly in adults. Surgical removal is the most common treatment, but chemotherapy and radiation therapy also may be utilized too.

The decision to use surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy is based on the type of bone cancer and primarily the cause to be treated.


Bone Cancer Types

  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Ewing sarcoma
  • Osteosarcoma

Bone Cancer Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of bone cancer include:

  • Bone pain
  • Swelling and tenderness near the affected area

Weakened bone, leading to fracture

  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with the doctor if one of the family members faces the above-mentioned symptoms. Even if it is a child that develops bone pain that:

  • Comes and goes
  • Becomes worse at night
  • Isn’t helped by over-the-counter pain relievers


Bone Cancer Diagnosis

Imaging tests can help determine the location and size of bone tumors, and whether the tumors have spread to other parts of the body. The types of imaging tests recommended depending on your individual signs and symptoms. Tests may include:

  • Bone scan
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • X-ray

Needle or surgical biopsies

Your doctor may recommend a procedure to remove a sample of tissue (biopsy) from the tumor for laboratory testing. Testing can tell your doctor whether the tissue is cancerous and, if so, what type of cancer you have. It can also reveal whether the tumor cells are growing quickly or slowly.

Types of biopsy procedures:

During a needle biopsy, your doctor inserts a thin needle through your skin and guides it into the tumor. The doctor is well aware and uses the needle to remove small pieces of tissue from the tumor.

Surgery to remove a tissue sample for testing. During a surgical biopsy, the doctor makes an incision through your skin and removes either the entire tumor or a portion of it.

Stages of bone cancer

If your doctor confirms a diagnosis of bone cancer, he or she tries to determine the extent (stage) of cancer because that will guide your treatment options. Factors to be considered include:

  • The size of the tumor
  • How fast the cancer is growing
  • The number of bones affected, such as adjacent vertebrae in the spine
  • Whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body

The stages of bone cancer are indicated by Roman numerals, ranging from 0 to IV. The lowest stages indicate that the tumor is smaller and less aggressive. By stage IV, cancer has spread to other parts of the body.


Bone Cancer Treatment

The treatment options for your bone cancer are based on the type of cancer you have, the stage of cancer, your overall health and your preferences. Different bone cancers respond to different treatments, and your doctors can help guide you in what is best for your cancer. For example, some bone cancers are treated with just surgery; some with surgery and chemotherapy; and some with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.


The goal of surgery is to remove the entire cancerous tumor. In most cases, this involves special techniques to remove the tumor in one single piece, along with a small portion of healthy tissue that surrounds it. The surgeon replaces the lost bone with some bone from another area of your body, with material from a bone bank or with a replacement made of metal and hard plastic.

Bone cancers that are very large or located in a complicated point on the bone may require surgery to remove all or part of a limb (amputation). As other treatments have been developed, amputation is becoming less common. If amputation is needed, you’ll likely be fitted with an artificial limb and go through training to learn to do everyday tasks using your new limb.


Chemotherapy uses strong anti-cancer drugs, usually delivered through a vein (intravenously), to kill cancer cells. However, this type of treatment works better for some forms of bone cancer than for others. For example, chemotherapy is generally not very effective for chondrosarcoma, but it’s an important part of treatment for osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of energy, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. During radiation therapy, you lie on a table while a special machine moves around you and aims the energy beams at precise points on your body.

Radiation therapy is often used before an operation because it can shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove. This, in turn, can help reduce the likelihood that amputation will be necessary.

Radiation therapy may also be used in people with bone cancer that can’t be removed with surgery. After surgery, radiation therapy may be used to kill any cancer cells that may be left behind. For people with advanced bone cancer, radiation therapy may help control signs and symptoms, such as pain.


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