What is bone cancer?
Bone cancer is a disease which mainly occurs in young people (usually between 10 and 20 years of age). It is not considered to be a hereditary disease (i.e. developed through the passing down of a faulty gene from one generation to another).
Bone cancer can be divided into two types:
Primary Bone Cancer – cancer which originates from cells in hard bone tissue.
Secondary Bone Cancer – cancer which originated in another part of the body, and then spread to the bone.
This article will focus only upon primary bone cancer.
Common symptoms of primary bone cancer include:
Problems with movement
Pain (the area around the bone tumour may be tender)
Swelling (usually only noticeable with bones close to the skin’s surface)
Other symptoms may include:
Fever or sweats
Also, where a cancerous tumour grows from your bone and presses on nearby structures, you may experience pressure symptoms such as numbness, tingling, some pain, and a weakness of related muscles.
Cancer is a disease where abnormal cells in the body begin to grow, divide and reproduce in an uncontrollable way. These abnormal cells then invade and destroy healthy tissue, including organs.
No one knows why primary bone cancer develops, but what is known is that a cancerous bone tumour starts from one abnormal cell.
Your limb/s feeling warm, painful and swollen will be a strong indicator to your GP that primary bone cancer may have developed, but the disease is usually discovered through an X-ray.
If your GP suspects, after carrying out a physical examination and asking a number of relevant questions, that you may have primary bone cancer, her or she will then refer you to a consultant who will most likely arrange for you to have the X-ray, a bone scan or an MRI scan.
Sometimes a biopsy is taken from the affected area for analysis.
Effect on your life
Being diagnosed with primary bone cancer can be an extremely traumatic experience. If possible, it is advisable to take someone who is emotionally strong with you to your consultations, to act as a support. Cancer consultants and nurse specialists are attuned to responding to your questions and will understand your needs.
If you develop primary bone cancer of the leg, you may walk with a limp.
Treatments for primary bone cancer include:
Surgery – where just the affected part of a limb is removed and replaced by either a bone graft or an artificial metal-fitting prosthesis
Radiotherapy – high energy radiation beams are focused upon the cancerous area, killing the cancerous cells and preventing the disease from spreading
Chemotherapy – where chemical agents/drugs are administered in order to kill cancer cells
Primary bone cancer will obviously have an enormous impact on your life. But the good news is that, for many people, there is life after primary bone cancer. What’s more, due to improvements in chemotherapy and surgical techniques, the general outlook for primary bone tumours has improved over the last twenty years.
Advice and Support
Bone Cancer Research Trust
Tel. 0113 262 1852
Tel. Helpline 0808 800 1234 (free phone)
Tel. 020 7739 2280 (standard rate)
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