How To Recognize Bone Cancer

In the United States, more than 2,000 people are diagnosed with bone tumor each year, with the patients most commonly children and adolescents. There are many different types of bone cancer depending on where it originated. Primary bone cancer (often called sarcoma) originates from a bone tissue, and the most common types of primary bone cancer are osteosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, and chondrosarcoma. Primary bone cancer is relatively rare, however cancer in the bone is usually due to metastatic tumors, or tumors that originate from another part of the body (usually from the breast or lungs) and spread to the bone most commonly through the blood.

What are the most common symptoms of bone cancer?

  • Pain. Bone cancer is most frequently typified by pain in knees, other bones and joints.  At the onset, this pain is usually felt at night or with physical activity, but it gradually grows constant and more severe over time.
  • Bone weakness and bone fractures. If a patient has bone cancer, his bones may get so weak that fractures can occur even with little or no trauma. A fracture may occur sometimes even just by standing on the affected bone.
  • Stiffness and swelling. If the tumor is near a joint or if the tumor has metastasized (or spread) to other areas of the body, symptoms such as fever, fatigue, anemia and weight loss may occur. These symptoms are however relatively uncommon. If a patient experiences any of the above symptoms, it is best that he consults a physician and be diagnosed for possible bone cancer.

During the consultation, the patient must give his doctor his complete medical history along with relevant family medical background (i.e. if any of his family members have also been diagnosed with bone tumor/ cancer) and a thorough description of his symptoms.

As part of the diagnosis, the patient will undergo a complete physical examination to test his muscle strength, sensation to touch, and reflexes. Blood tests may also be conducted, along with test scans such as plain X rays, CT scans, MRI, and PET scans. The X rays are usually conducted first in order to locate tumor and to tell if it is benign (in which case the tumor usually has a smooth border) or malignant  (where the tumor usually has a ragged border).

Afterwards, a biopsy is conducted. A biopsy involves taking a small sample of the tumor, in order to determine what kind of tumor it is. This sample is obtained through a small needle (this is called a needle biopsy) or a small incision (called incisional biopsy).

As with any other ailment, early detection is the patient's main ally in defeating the disease. One should always be aware of what is going on with his body and to be vigilant about consulting with a physician regarding his overall health. And even though the causes of cancer are mostly unknown, it is still best to be conscious about maintaining and conditioning our bodies through proper nutrition, regular exercise and enough rest.


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