Bone cancer is a malignant (cancerous) tumor of the bone that destroys normal bone tissue. The cancer of the bone tissue is divided into two groups: primary and secondary. Primary cancers are further divided into benign and malignant, whereas secondary cancers represent metastatic changes in the bone-joint tissue originating from other tissues and organs, mainly lungs, breasts, kidneys and prostate.
What are the symptoms?
Usually, bone cancer's first symptom is the occurrence of pain in a certain part of the locomotor system. Some tumors (especially the benign) do not show any symptoms and are discovered accidentally. Pain as a symptom may be constant, and quite typically occurs at night. Other symptoms include swelling of the affected area and impaired function of the bone - joint system. When such symptoms arise, medical assistance is required.
How is it diagnosed?
After a physical exam and consultation with a general practitioner, medical examination from an orthopedic surgeon is required. Afterwards, a diagnostic protocol is set in order to make an accurate diagnosis (X-ray, ultrasound, blood test, CT, MRI, bone scintigraphy, PET scan, etc.). In cases where these noninvasive diagnostic procedures fail to detect the exact diagnosis (bone disease or bone cancer), if necessary, biopsy of the affected tissue is performed with a fine needle biopsy or by a surgical (incisional) bone biopsy.
What are the treatment options?
The treatment of bone cancer can be conservative, surgical and most frequently combined (a so-called "sandwich" therapy).
Conservative treatment involves radiation and chemotherapy for malignant tumors, whereas for the benign tumors, the treatment involves monitoring, and, in due course, an application of medicine on the affected area.
Surgical treatment involves a complete surgical removal of the tumor (malignant or benign) and, if needed, a reconstruction of the bone - joint system by implantation of natural or artificial materials.
The combined treatment is a combination of the two previously mentioned treatments, and is mainly used in malignant tumors cases. In order to reduce the cancer locally, the treatments begins by radiation or chemotherapy as to prevent further cancer micrometastases, followed by surgical removal of the cancerous mass and a final reapplication of radiation or chemotherapy. The goal of the treatment is to save the patient's life, allowing for painless functioning and normal everyday life.
Patients monitoring after the treatment is of utmost importance. Depending on the type of cancer, with the aim of preventing the recurrence of the disease, examinations are due at intervals of 3 to 6 months for a period of at least five years. As for benign tumors, in some cases, it is sufficient to do one to two follow-up examinations, after which no further monitoring of the patient is needed.