Bone Cancer Fundamentals

Bone Tumor

Bone Tumor

Bone tumors are a neoplastic growth (abnormal growth) of tissue inside your bones. The abnormal growths can be found to be either benign or malignant, so don’t always mean that cancer is present.

Bone tumors are placed into two categories, “primary tumors” and “secondary tumors”. Primary indicates that the tumor originated in the bone of cells and tissues derived from the bones. Secondary tumors may have originated in other tissues like the lungs or prostate, then moved (metastasized) into the bones. Some cancer regularly metastasize into the bones, including cancers of the lungs, breast, kidneys and thyroid.

Secondary malignant bone tumors are by far the more common, presenting 100 times more often than primary bone tumors.

Primary tumors are either benign tumors of cancerous (malignant). The benign bone tumors can develop for a number of reasons including injuries to the bones, neoplasms (abnormal growth), infections, developmental issues with the bones or inflammation. Primary tumors often appear in the femur and tibia.

Common benign primary bone tumors include osteoblastoma, enchondroma, fibrous dysplasia of bone, aneurysmal bone cyst and giant cell tumor of bone. Benign primary bone tumors do not metastasize. Malignant primary bone tumors can include fibrosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma.

Secondary malignant bone tumors most commonly originate as carcinomas of the breast, lung, or prostate. However it is somewhat difficult to obtain the real statistics as to how cancers spread to the bone and metastasize, because by that stage the cancer has often already killed the patient.

Bone tumors are very painful and affect the movement of the patient dramatically. As the tumor grows, so does the level of pain that the patient experiences and putting weight on the joints and moving because difficult. In addition, patients often experience fatigue, weight loss, anemia, and bone fractures. However in rare cases, some patients do not experience much pain and just notice a bone mass building up on their body.

Treatment of Bone Tumors

The treatment will vary greatly depending on the type of tumor and if it is benign or malignant.

Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy are often used in treating some malignant bone tumors like Ewings Sarcoma with good success. A number of forms of chemotherapy treatment are available as well with good survival rates attached to that as well. Surgery is used to treat bone tumors that are well advanced. One of the great concerns with these procedures is bone loss and impact on bone density, so great care is taken when looking at the impact of treatment on the health of your bones.

Some medications can help with the bone loss and bone density issues associated with the radiological, chemotherapy and surgical treatments. Drugs like Metastron are also given to help with the pain of bone turmors.

Amputation is also an option to treat bone cancers that have reached an advanced level of progression. Sometimes “limb sparing surgery” can be used, where a significant section of bone is removed, but replaced by bone from another part of the body, allowing you to retain the limb. That may be in combination with radiological and chemotherapy treatment.

Bone Tumor Prognosis

The prognosis varies greatly depending on the type and location of the tumor, and of course on it’s benign or malignant status. If it is a secondary tumor, quite often the main threat to the patients life is the origin of the malignancy.

For benign tumors the outlook is said to be very good, however some benign tumors can become cancerous. Even with malignant bone tumors the outlook is good, however that depends upon the level of progression, if the cancer has spread, the location of the tumor, the type of cancer and the size of the tumor.

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