Bone and Muscle Cancer

Bone and Muscle Cancer

It is the abnormal growth of cells arising from the bone and muscle tissue in your body.

Bone cancer is of two types, primary bone cancer, which arise from the bone tissue itself, and secondary bone cancer, which arises as a result of cancer cells which deposit in the bone from elsewhere in the body.

There are many different types of primary bone cancers but, the most common are:

  • Osteosarcoma – which arises from the cells which stimulate bone growth in your body
  • Chondrosarcoma – which arises from the cells of the cartilage in your body
  • Ewing’s sarcoma – is a type of rapidly growing cancer which affects the bone tissue

Leiomyosarcoma is cancer of the smooth muscles which line organs such as the stomach, bladder, pancreas, blood vessels and intestines. Therefore cancer of the smooth muscles will be similar to other cancers which affect the said organ.

Bone cancer is a rare form of cancer to affect the adult population, with only 3,450 new cases being diagnosed annually.

What Are the Symptoms of Bone Cancer?

One of the most common symptoms of bone cancer in the early stages is bone pain, especially at the joints. As the disease progresses you may develop other symptoms like:

  • Tenderness of the bone in the affected area
  • Swelling in the affected region
  • Stiffness of joints
  • Limitation of movement
  • Loss of weight
  • Loss of sensation in the affected limb
  • Easy fatigability

If you have developed any of these symptoms and you are worried, then you should definitely see your doctor at the earliest.

What causes bone cancer?

The exact cause of bone cancer remains unknown but factors which increase the risk of developing bone cancer include:

  • Genetic predisposition and being diagnosed with conditions such as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome
  • Being diagnosed with bone conditions such as Paget’s disease of the bone
  • Past history of exposure to high dose radiation at a young age

What tests are used to diagnose bone cancer?

Physical examination is highly unlikely to reveal anything significant to indicate the presence of bone cancer. Therefore investigations are needed to confirm the diagnosis and include:

  • X-ray – which is the best investigation to image bones, and will help your doctor clearly visualize any areas of abnormality
  • CT  or MRI -  gives cross-sectional and 3D views of the bones, helping to create a complete picture of the problem, and also helps assess the spread of cancer to adjacent tissue or other parts of the body
  • Biopsy – is done using a needle to remove tissue form the affected region in the bone. It is done under general or local anesthesia and the tissue drawn out can then be viewed under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells

What is the treatment for bone cancer?

The treatment plan your doctor chooses will depend on the stage and grade of the cancer. Stage is the extent of spread of cancer and the grade is how rapidly the cancer will grow and how malignant it is.

Once this has been determined, a team of medical professionals including your GP, Orthopedic surgeon, Medical oncologist, Radiation Oncologist, Cancer nurses, as well as other allied health professionals such as physiotherapist will plan out your treatment.

The treatment options available are:

  • Surgery – is usually done to remove the area of the bone that has been affectedby the cancer as well some healthy tissue around it. In the case of a limb, surgeons always try to perform limb sparing surgeries, in order to preserve the function of the limb and quality of life of the patient. But if the disease is extensive, then they might give you the option of amputation.
  • Chemotherapy – makes use of anti-cancer medication to destroy the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is used in combination with surgery as a form of treatment to shrink the cancer before surgery, or if surgery is not possible then as a form of palliative treatment.
  • Radiotherapy – makes use of high energy radiation to destroy the cancer cells and is again used in combination with surgery.

Palliative care is aimed at symptom relief and slowing down the spread of the cancer, when nothing else can be done to completely cure the condition. Keeping the patient as comfortable as possible with pain relief is an important factor. Palliative care also makes use of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and various other drugs to achieve this.

What is the Prognosis of bone cancer?

The outcome of bone cancer is dependent on many factors such as the type of cancer, the exact location, the stage of the disease, as well as general health conditions such as your age, level of fitness and medical history.

Screening for and prevention of bone cancer

There are no specific screening methods available for the early detection of bone cancer.

There are no proven methods to prevent the development of bone cancer.