ABOUT Bone Sarcomas - Diagnosis and Treatment
A variety of cancers begin in bones, these tumors are most often caused by malignant tumors that have spread to the bone. The most common type of sarcoma is osteosarcoma.
What Are Bone Sarcomas?
Bone sarcomas are several different types of cancer that start in bones. They can affect adults, but more commonly occur in children and adolescents. They may affect any bone or joint but are most common in the leg or pelvis. While they tend to grow slowly for years before causing pain and disability, some rare cases can cause death within months.
How Are They Diagnosed?
Bone sarcomas usually start without pain. The diagnosis is made through X-rays of the bones or biopsies of bone tissue. More common types of bone sarcoma show up on X-rays as well as on scans using either ultrasound or computerized tomography (CT).
CT can show up any new bone tumors, while ultrasound is most often used to find tiny, localized tumors in the leg bones. Of all the different types of bone sarcomas, osteosarcoma is the most commonly diagnosed due to its slow progression and early detection.
How Is Bone Sarcoma Diagnosed?
Osteosarcoma occurs in children and adolescents more often than children with other types of bone tumors. Signs of the disease include pain, swelling, tenderness, decreased mobility or strength in any part of the body.
Children with osteosarcoma may have called their tumorous growths "bunions" because of the way they resemble a shoe heel.
They are most often diagnosed by X-rays taken at an early stage by a physician who notices a tender lump in the leg. Other times it is found at operation when physicians remove a piece of bone containing the tumor with an instrument called a burr saw.
How Is Treatment Arranged?
Once a bone sarcoma has been diagnosed, its treatment must be considered carefully. Most types of bone sarcoma are treated with surgery to remove the underlying tumor. The size of the tumor, if it has grown into healthy tissues, will determine how deep the surgery must be.
The more extensive the surgery, the greater benefit it will provide to patients. Recovery from major surgery is sometimes slow and may take time to regain strength in an arm or leg after an operation. But many people who have had this type of procedure have no evidence of cancer in their bodies years later or have no pain or swelling at all.
Frequently Asked Questions on Bone Sarcoma
How is Bone Sarcoma Treated?
Surgery is the key to treatment for most sarcomas. The extent and type of surgery depend on many factors: the type and location of the tumor, its size, and how far it has invaded surrounding tissues.
Surgery can involve amputating an affected limb, or some bone tissue if not all of it can be removed without excessive damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Radiation therapy may also be used in combination with surgery.
Some types of bone sarcoma such as Ewing's disease may require additional chemotherapy, which can slow down tumor growth and increase survival times.
What Is The Outcome?
Survival time is often directly related to the depth of the tumor invasion. For example, osteosarcoma that has not spread far has a better chance of survival than Ewing's sarcoma, which can spread more widely.
The prognosis for people with Ewing's disease is usually poor. Long-term survival depends on many factors including timely diagnosis and treatment.
The 5-year survival rate for osteosarcoma approaches 90% while Ewing's disease has a 5-year survival of less than 10%. Some people who have recovered from bone cancer suffer from lingering effects such as loss of mobility or weakness caused by radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Bone sarcomas are also called osteosarcomas, malignant tumors of bone, and malignant bone tumors. The most common type of osteosarcoma is osteosarcoma multiforme (OM). Osteosarcomas are sometimes grouped according to how they begin. Osteosarcomas that begin in the skull are called "skull cancers" and those that originate in other bones are called "bone cancers".
No one cause causes all types of common bone sarcomas. See Causes of Bone Sarcoma for more information on various causes.
Bone sarcomas are most often caused by malignant tumors that have spread to the bone. They can also occur when certain cells in the bone (osteoblasts and osteocytes) become abnormal and multiply beyond control. This is called a benign tumor of bone (osteoma).
There is no known way to prevent bone sarcoma, but most cases occur in children and adolescents with rare exceptions.
Efforts to prevent cancer in these people often focus on lifestyle and environmental factors such as not smoking and minimizing exposure to toxins like pesticides and solvents.