Bone Cancer

Bone Cancer


Bone is a strong and tough connective tissue with major functions of protecting our internal organs, muscles, and providing locomotion. Bone tumors are classified into two categories: Primary Tumors and Secondary Tumors. Primary tumors are bone cancers that originate from the bone itself and are very rare. Secondary tumors are metastatic bone cancers that originate or spread from other sites, such as prostate cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, etc. Secondary bone tumors are 50 to 100 times more common compared to primary tumors. In most cases, bone cancers cause severe pain and require many therapeutic strategies. Primary bone tumors can be classified as bone cancer or benign tumors.


Malignant Bone Tumors

Malignant bone tumors are rare when compared to benign tumors. Malignant bone tumors are cancerous and are able to metastasize or spread. There are 3 classes of malignant bone tumors:

  1. Osteosarcoma: these malignant tumors develop in the arms, legs, and pelvic bones. They usually develop during the ages of 10 to 30 years old, and only about 10% of cases develop in elderly people.
  2. Chondrosarcoma: the term ‘chondro’ refers to cartilage cells. Chondrosarcoma is the second most common form of malignant bone tumors.
  3. Ewing’s Sarcoma: occurs on the mid-portion of the long bones, such as the femur.

Benign Bone Tumors

Benign tumors are localized. They are not cancerous and are not able to spread. The following are the different types of benign bone tumors:

  1. Osteochondroma: more common in people under age of 20.
  2. Giant cell tumor: affects legs and is less common.
  3. Osteoid osteoma: occurs in early 20's.
  4. Osteoblastoma: appears in spine and long bones.
  5. Enchondroma: usually usually appears in bones of the hand and feet. It often has no symptoms. It is the most common type of hand tumor.


Secondary Bone Tumors

Secondary bone tumors are metastasized, in other words they originated from other organs, such as prostate, kidney, and breast cancer, etc.


The most common symptom of bone cancer is pain. Pain usually stays for weeks or months before the patient seeks help. Pain may gradually increase as the size of the tumor increases. Other associated symptoms can be fatigue, anemia, fever, and weight loss.


In most cases, treatment for bone tumors is usually a combination of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

Risk factors and causes of bone cancer

  1. As far as age is concerned, bone cancer is more common in younger people; however, Osteosarcoma is common among people who are 60 or older.
  2. Injuries and knocks are thought to cause bone cancer, but there is no strong evidence that that is true.
  3. Exposure to radiation in the past as a part of cancer treatment could have an impact in the present. This happens because radiation exposure can make normal cells form a tumor.
  4. Bone diseases, like Paget’s disease of the bone, may increase the risk of developing an Osteosarcoma.
  5. Genetic factors like Li-Fraumeni syndrome runs in families.
  6. Ethnicity factor may also play a major role in bone cancer. A study on Ewing’s sarcoma proved that Americans are more prone around the age of 30 years.
  7. Occupational factors such as toxic substances can also play a major role in bone tumors developing.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment options for bone tumors

Ewing's sarcoma is treated by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. There are number of chemotherapy treatment options for bone tumors. If the response due to chemotherapy is greater than 90% necrosis, then a better prognosis s expected. Medications are prescribed based on bone density and the expected bone loss.

Surgical treatment

Amputation may be considered if all other measures fail. The amputation can be above or below knee, above or below elbow, or the entire limb. It all depends upon the radiographic results after every treatment attempt.