Bone cancer occurs when cancerous cells form in your bones. Your bones support and protect the internal organs of your body as well as serving as the framework for your body. Primary bone cancer begins in the bone and secondary or metastatic bone cancer spreads to the bone from another organ of the body. Knowing the type of cancer you have is important because it affects the treatment plan your doctors develop for you.
Other conditions can cause symptoms that mimic bone cancer. Bone infections, non-cancerous bone tumors, osteoporosis, and even arthritis can produce symptoms similar to bone cancer.
Primary Bone Cancer
Primary bone tumors are less common than metastatic bone tumors. Primary bone tumors can also be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Both benign and malignant bone tumors may negatively impact healthy bone tissue, but benign tumors normally do not spread or damage bone and are seldom fatal.
Metastatic Bone Cancer
Metastatic bone cancer is cancer that has spread from another part of the body. Metastatic bone cancer is referred to by the name of the organ from which it originated. The most common forms of metastatic bone cancer are:
Bone Cancer Symptoms
Bone Cancer Symptoms
Bone pain is the most common symptoms of bone cancer but this and other symptoms may be caused by other conditions such as injuries and/or arthritis. You should consult with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms for an extended period of time to define the cause of any of these symptoms.
- Bone pain
- Swelling near a bone
- General weakness and fatigue
- Weight loss
Bone Cancer Risk Factors
Knowing risk factors for any cancer is important information. While it is not clear at present what causes bone cancer, the following are linked to developing bone cancer:
Some bone cancers may be genetically inherited. The gene defect responsible for bone cancer has not been discovered as yet, but advances in genetic sequencing may help identify it in the future.
Exposure to large doses of radiation can increase your risk of developing bone cancer. Patients who have undergone radiation therapy or chemotherapy for other cancers may develop bone cancer.
Paget’s disease commonly occurs in older adults. Having Paget’s disease of the bone may increase your chances of developing bone cancer later in life.
Bone Cancer Diagnosis & Staging
Your doctor will ask about your personal and family medical history to help diagnose if you have bone cancer. A physical examination followed by blood tests and imaging tests may indicate bone cancer. To confirm a bone cancer diagnosis, your doctor will order a biopsy of the tissue to more accurately determine the best treatment plan for your case.
Blood tests can detect abnormalities that may indicate bone cancer.
Diagnostic imaging, including x-rays, computerized tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), bone scans, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans can determine a tumor’s size and signs if the cancer has metastasized (spread) or returned.
A bone biopsy removes a sample of tissue to determine if it is cancerous. Doctors examine the sample in the lab to determine the presence of cancer cells; a bone biopsy tells the doctor if the cancer is primary or metastatic. If needed, a bone cancer biopsy may be:
- Fine needle aspiration: A thin needle is inserted externally and guided to the tumor to acquire a tissue sample.
- Core needle biopsy: A larger needle is used to retrieve a larger tissue sample than a fine needle aspiration biopsy.
- Surgical bone biopsy: Your doctor removes a tissue sample through an incision. The doctor may remove a piece of the tumor or the entire tumor; it is recommended a biopsy be performed by an orthopedic oncologist because the surgery can be influential in your subsequent treatment plan.
Once tests determine a bone cancer diagnosis, your doctor determines how significant the cancer is and defines the stage of the cancer. Staging a cancer diagnosis determines how much cancer is in the body and assists your oncology team in developing the best treatment plan to manage your case.