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Bone cancer is a tumor that originates from abnormal cells produced in bone tissue or can develop from cancer cells in other organs, such as breast, lung and prostate, which characterizes metastasis. There are several types of bone cancer, but the symptoms tend to be very similar, there can be pain and swelling in the joints and frequent and easy fractures, which are known as pathological fractures.
The diagnosis is made by an orthopedist or oncologist through tests such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, pet scan and bone biopsy. Treatment for bone cancer can be chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery, depending on the size, type, and location of the tumor in the bone.
The most common symptoms of bone cancer include:
- Bone pain: usually at first the pain is not constant, but it can be very intense at night or when moving the legs, such as when walking;
- Swelling of the joints: a lump may appear in the joints, increasing pain and discomfort, especially in the knees and elbows;
- Bones that break easily: pathological fractures can occur, which is when bones break more easily because of the fragility caused by the tumor, being more common fractures of the femur or of column.
In addition to these signs of cancer, the tumor can lead to weight loss for no apparent reason, intense tiredness and constant fever. If the cancer spreads to other organs, such as the lung, for example, it can cause other more specific symptoms, such as difficulty breathing.
How to confirm the diagnosis
When the doctor suspects a bone lesion, he may request an X-ray, as the radiograph may show that there is a defect in the bone or nearby tissues, such as muscles and fat. In some cases, the doctor may also order a chest X-ray to see if the bone cancer has spread to the lungs, but this is only when the diagnosis is confirmed.
Magnetic resonance is an exam that is most indicated by the doctor to confirm the cancer in the bones and to define the size and extension of the tumor, but computed tomography and pet scan can also be recommended, as they can show whether other parts of the body are affected by the disease. In addition, bone biopsy is also done in conjunction with these other imaging tests, as it shows the type of abnormal cells that are causing the bone cancer.
What are the types
There are several types of bone cancer, depending on the part of the bone, the tissue and the type of cell that forms the tumor, such as:
- Osteosarcoma: is the type that develops from cells responsible for the formation of bones, and occurs mainly in the bones of the arms, legs and pelvic, being more common in the age between 10 and 30 years;
- Chondrosarcoma: starts in cartilage cells, is the second most common bone cancer and is rare in people under 20;
- Ewing's Sarcoma: can occur in children and adolescents, is rarer in adults over 30 years of age and the most affected parts are the pelvic bones and long bones legs and arms;
- Malignant fibrous histiocytoma: this type of bone cancer starts in the ligaments and tendons that are close to the bones, being more common in the elderly;
- Fibrosarcoma: also the type of bone cancer that develops from soft tissue known as ligaments and tendons;
- Giant cell tumor of bone: can be benign or malignant and usually affects the knee region;
- Chordoma: develops most often in adults over 30 years of age and affects the bones of the skull and spine.
In addition, bone cancer does not always start in bone cells, often happening as a result of metastasis of advanced cancer of another organ, such as breast, prostate and lung cancer, for example. Understand what metastases are and how to identify them.
How the treatment is done
Treatment for bone cancer is indicated by the oncologist and depends on the type of tumor, size and location, with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and, in some cases, surgery to remove the tumor.
In more severe cases, it is necessary to amputate the affected limb, maintaining, if possible, as much of its functionality as possible or, depending on the case, an endoprosthesis can be manufactured, which is a prosthesis that serves to replace the bone that was removed.
However, when bone cancer is at a very advanced stage, which usually occurs when this type of cancer has metastasized, the most common treatment is called palliative care, which is done to ensure the quality of person's life, with the aim of reducing pain, with analgesic drugs, and the discomfort caused by cancer symptoms.
Learn more about treatment for bone cancer.