Cancer occurs when cells grow out of control. Cells in any part of the body can form cancer and spread to various other body parts. Bone cancer occurs because of the uncontrollable and abnormal growth of bone cancer.
But if we talk about its cure; most cases of bone cancer are successfully treated. Various treatment options help accomplish this outcome and may go on indefinitely to control cancer. Before we know how to cure bone cancer, let’s look at some basics!
What is bone cancer?
Bone form the supporting framework for your body. It has a hard outer layer of bones that comprises compact (cortical) bone, covering the lighter spongy (trabecular) bone inside. The outside of the bone is composed of fibrous tissue called the periosteum.
The bone contains two kinds of cells.
- Osteoblasts – lay down new bones.
- Osteoclasts – dissolve old bone.
Bone looks like it doesn’t change much, but it’s very active. New bone is constantly forming while old bone is dissolving. This process helps keep the bones strong.
Some bones have marrow (soft spongy tissue in the bone cavity) that contains blood-forming cells. These cells produce new red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood platelets. Other cells in the bone marrow also include plasma cells and fibroblasts. Any of these bone cells has the potential to develop into cancer.
Watch this youtube video by medical centric for a quick brief on bone cancer.
What causes bone cancer?
The exact cause of bone cancer is not known yet, but you’re more at risk of developing it if you:
- Had previous exposure to radiation during radiotherapy.
- Have genetic conditions such as Paget’s disease of the bone or Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
People with these conditions have a faulty version of a gene that usually causes the growth of cancerous cells in the bone.
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Signs and symptoms of bone cancer
Bone cancer can affect any bone but is most likely to affect the long bones of the legs or upper arms.
If you or your child are experiencing persistent, severe, or worsening bone pain, consult with your doctor.
How is bone cancer treated?
Bone cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer, its location, and extent of spread. People with bone cancer often work with a team of healthcare professionals to treat this condition.
This group includes doctors specializing in bones and joints (orthopaedic surgeons) and doctors specializing in cancer (oncologists and radiation oncologists).
Treatment of bone cancer typically involves a combination of approaches. The duration and type of these treatments vary depending on several factors, such as the type of bone cancer, the size of the tumor, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
Commonly preferred treatment options include:
- Surgery: Your surgeon removes the tumor and some healthy tissue around the bone. They can also repair or rebuild affected bones with bone grafts (human or artificial bone grafts). Sometimes, an entire limb is removed to treat cancer. In such cases, a prosthetic/artificial limb is used. Sometimes repeat surgery is required if the surgeon cannot remove all the cancer cells the first time around.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment shrinks the tumors with high-energy beams of X-rays. The oncologists often use radiation before surgery to shrink the tumor so that less tissue needs to be removed.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment kills cancer cells with medicine (chemotherapeutic agents) throughout the body. People usually receive these drugs by having them injected into a vein. Your oncologist can use chemotherapy to treat localized bone cancers or bone cancers that have spread.
What are the survival rates of bone cancers?
Many people with bone cancer undergo successful treatment and lead fulfilling lives. In fact, those with early-stage bone cancer have a better chance of complete recovery. However, survival rates decrease when bone cancer is detected in later stages. According to recent studies, bone cancer’s five-year relative survival rate is 66.8%.
Bone cancer is a rare condition. Being diagnosed with it can bring frustration, fear, and uncertainty. Bone cancer can be completely treated if detected and treated early. In such instances, cancer never returns but other people with bone cancer may be required to continue treatments, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy, to keep cancer from spreading.