A Comprehensive Bone Cancer Symptoms, Causes, And Treatments Guide
In 2022, around 1.9 million US population were diagnosed with cancer. From the number, it is obvious that cancer is part of the most common diseases and also one of the deadliest diseases. Although there are different types of cancer, a few of the most common ones include skin, breast, and lung cancer. Out of all these common ones, there is one cancer that is quite rare in individuals and only makes up less than one per cent of all cancers. This cancer is commonly known as bone cancer or Osteosarcoma.
If you recently confronted a patient with bone cancer, you might want to know the answer: “how long can you have bone cancer without knowing?” You will not find an exact answer for how long you can have a bone or any other form of cancer without knowing. However, some estimation tells that a person can have cancer for five years without realizing it. But what decides how long you will have cancer until you notice any symptoms or signs?
To know the factors that can change this number, you must first understand bone cancer, its causes, symptoms, and possible treatments. Knowing that, you will realize how bone cancer is diagnosed and its survival rate. So, let’s start by knowing what bone cancer is.
What Is Bone Cancer?
When we talk about bone cancer, you should know that this term is used for various cancers that develop in a person’s bones. The development of cancer cells in your bone can damage the bone tissue. Since bone cancer is a broad term, you might want to know how doctors determine the bone cancer type you have. It’s actually determined based on your tissue, and cell type cancer started developing.
Cancers that originate from the bone itself are known as primary bone cancers. There are also tumors that start developing from organs as well as the other parts of the body, which later spread to the bones and other parts. These growths of cancer cells are referred to as metastatic or secondary bone cancers. In most cases, the lung, prostate, and breast tumors spread or metastasize to the bones.
Know that bone cancer can start developing from any bone in a person’s body. However, usually, it starts in the long bones in a person’s arms or legs, like the upper arm, shinbone, or femur. Cancer that starts in the bone is not common. But remember, such cancer can be aggressive, making early detection essential.
What Are The Various Types Of Bone Cancer?
So, now we have an understanding of what bone cancer actually is. So, with this, the need to know about different types of bone cancer also becomes important.
As we discussed, cases where cancer starts from bones are highly unlikely. However, primary bone cancers must not be taken lightly, as they are the most fatal of all bone cancers. In contrast, secondary bone cancers are the more common types of bone cancer.
So, let’s discuss the common kinds of primary bone cancers.
Osteogenic Sarcoma (Osteosarcoma)
This type of bone cancer is more common in children and adolescents. However, Osteosarcoma can even happen in adults. In the maximum number of cases, this cancer starts developing at the long bone tips in the legs and arms. This cancer harms the hard tissue that works as outer layer protection for your bones. Furthermore, osteogenic sarcoma may develop in your shoulders, hips, and other locations.
Out of all the primary bone cancers, Osteosarcoma counts 2 out of 3 bone cancer cases. This means it is the most common primary bone cancer.
We have Ewing’s sarcoma as the second number in our common primary bone cancer list. This cancer originates from the soft tissue close to the bones or even directly in the bones. You will find this cancer more common in young adults as well as children. Normally, it affects the person’s long bones like legs, arms as well as pelvis.
Chondrosarcoma is more common among older adults and usually develops in the thigh, shoulders, and pelvis areas. It develops in the subchondral tissue, a tough connective tissue between a person’s bones. However, its rare cases make it the least common primary bone cancer.
MM (Multiple myeloma) is known to be the most common cancer type, which involves bones. But, this cancer is not part of primary bone cancer since it originates in the plasma cells. This cancer happens when cancer cells develop in a person’s bone marrow, leading to tumors in different bones. MM is more common in older adults.
What Makes Bone Cancer Get Unattended For So Long?
You might be curious about how one can have bone cancer for such a long period without knowing. The main reason is that identifying bone cancer in its initial stage is difficult since a person will not show any major signs or symptoms of having it. And unless the person goes to a doctor and undergoes multiple tests, identifying it with only visual inspections becomes very difficult.
Since bone cancer starts in the bones, it’s impossible to know about it through the naked eye. For that reason, bone cancer in a person can go undetected for five years and even more in a few cases. This long delay can lead to difficulty providing treatment and diagnosing the person’s exact condition.
As bone cancer shows no major symptoms, you need to take the help of doctors who have the right tools to diagnose your hidden cancer and other health conditions. They use tests like CT scans, X-rays, and MRIs to diagnose a patient’s condition.
So, a person may not realize they have bone cancer unless they enter the critical stage. And thus, this increases the importance of regular screenings in individuals. So, how will you know whether you have bone cancer? For that, you must be aware of bone cancer signs and symptoms, which we will discuss now.
Common Signs And Symptoms Of Bone Cancer
Most of the symptoms of bone cancer are minor during the initial stages. In most cases, a person may only experience a painless lump. Meanwhile, others can feel a variety of symptoms. A person can experience the same symptoms for conditions like Lyme disease or arthritis. And this can even lead to a delay in the cancer diagnosis.
Here are some of the common symptoms and signs of bone cancer:
- a feeling of pain and unexpected swelling in the affected bones area
- a noticeable hard mass in the long bones of a person’s chest, limbs, or pelvis
- an extra feeling of fatigue and tiredness
- extreme pain in bones, especially at night
- less flexibility and increased difficulty while moving
- bone pain due to minor trauma
Some less common symptoms of bone cancer include:
- unexpected weight loss
- easy broken bone injuries
Pain is the most common symptom among bone cancer patients. However, it is not essential that every bone cancer will cause pain.
Do these symptoms sound familiar to you? If yes, you must make a visit to a doctor right away. They can diagnose your condition and tell whether your symptoms are for bone cancer.
What Are The Causes Of Bone Cancer?
The cause of Bone cancer is still unknown to experts. However, there are some link factors that might act as promoters of bone cancer in a person’s body. So, let’s learn what factors have the potential to cause bone cancer.
Atypical Cellular Growth
If you are familiar with the term cell, you may know that our body has millions of them. In these cells, there are both healthy and unhealthy old cells. Our body continuously produces new healthy cells, which later on divide to take the place of older cells. In this process of replacing, the older cells die. But cells like atypical cells don’t get eliminated in the process and are called abnormal cells for that reason. These cells don’t necessarily cause cancer, but if a large mass of tissue is formed, it can lead to tumors.
Genetic or chromosomal mutations are one of the causes which can increase the chances of bone cancer, and it might be inherited. However, such cases are rare, and you will likely not develop bone cancer. Also, radiation can be a cause of mutations, but there isn’t any particular cause of it.
You may have heard of radiation therapy, which is highly popular for killing cancer cells. This treatment is also quite effective for treating bone cancer.
However, there are chances that people might develop Osteosarcoma after taking radiation therapy. This mostly happens when there is the use of large doses of radiation.
What Are The Risk Factors For Bone Tumor or Cancer?
So, now you know the potential causes that might lead to bone cancer. Now, let’s get familiarized with the risk factors for bone cancer.
- a history of bone cancer or any other cancer in the family
- case of receiving radiation therapy or treatment in the past
- history of Paget disease that causes the growth of bones atypically
- a part of having multiple tumors in the cartilage
- having Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, or Bloom syndrome, increasing the risk of cancer development.
Staging And Diagnosing Bone Cancer
Primary bone cancer is classified into different stages. The cancer stage tells the cancer position, progress rate, and effect on other body parts.
- Stage 1: The bone tumor is localized and still low-grade.
- Stage 2: The tumor is high-grade but still localized.
- Stage 3: The cancer is high-grade and has spread to areas within the bone.
- Stage 4: The tumor had spread from one bone to other body areas, like the liver or lungs.
The doctor can use various methods to diagnose the cancer stage in the bones, including:
- Biopsy: It involves analyzing a small tissue sample in order to diagnose cancer
- Bone scan: Basically involves diagnosing the bones condition
- Blood test: Used to establish a baseline that can be used during treatment
- Imaging test: Use of CT scan, X-rays, MRI, and PET, to know a defined structure of the bones
How Can You Treat Bone Cancer?
The treatment for your cancer depends upon your cancer type, how much it is spread, and where exactly. If you are a bone cancer patient, you will have a team of healthcare professionals that will help you treat the condition. You will meet oncologists that have a specialization in cancer and doctors with a specialization in joints and bones.
While treating your bone cancer, healthcare providers will use a combination of approaches. The treatment type and duration will depend on the factors we previously mentioned. The common treatments for bone cancer include:
- Surgery: This treatment involves removing affected tissue as well as tumors surgically. Surgery also involves removing and replacing the affected bone, which can stop cancer growth from spreading rapidly. However, this type of surgery is only used when you think you are ready for it or if that’s the only way to save you from cancer. You may need amputation if there is high bone damage in the legs or arms.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment involves high doses of X-rays that help shrink and eliminate tumors. Many doctors will use radiation therapy before surgery to reduce the tumor size, so there is no need to remove large tissue, and only less tissue is needed to be removed.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment involves using medicines to kill every cancer cell in the body. The usual way to take anti-cancer medicines consists of swallowing pills or injecting them into your body through a vein. Doctors can use medication to treat both secondary and primary bone cancers.
Is Bone Cancer Fatal? What’s The Survival Rate Of Bone Cancer?
The answer is not usually when we talk about whether bone cancer is fatal. Of course, there are cases where people die of bone cancer. However, in most cases, a person can make a full recovery from bone cancer. The five-year survival rate for bone tumors is around 66.8%. This implies that 66.8% of the population survived bone cancer even after five years of their diagnosis.
Make sure you remember that this survival rate is based on people who have survived bone cancer in the past. Don’t make it a standard for how long you will live since it can vary from person to person. You must consult your health provider to learn bone cancer survival rates in your case.
Most people will be able to survive bone cancer by undergoing treatment. People in the early stage of bone cancer have more chances to go through full recovery. In the later stages of bone cancer, the survival rate decreases drastically.
Bone cancer is uncommon, and a person’s chances of developing primary bone cancer are few. Your survival rate will depend on the stage of your bone cancer, size, and the affected area. If bone cancer is detected early, the chances of survival increase drastically. So, see if you have symptoms that can be signs of bone cancer in you. Meet your doctor to know the best treatment plan for you.
University Cancer Centers help you find the best treatment plan for your cancer. We are a team of professional doctors who diagnose your condition, learn about your medical history, and accordingly recommend the best treatment plan. Radiation therapy may not work for every patient and can be even risky for many. Our healthcare providers see if the treatment we recommend is actually good for you and safe.
Contact us at (713) 474-1414 to book an appointment with our professional healthcare providers to get a perfect treatment plan for your bone cancer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Bone Cancer Show Up In Blood Work?
There is no particular need for blood tests in order to diagnose bone cancer. However, blood tests can help after the diagnosis is complete. Because if your blood contains high levels of LDH and alkaline phosphatase, it can help healthcare providers know that your cancer level is advanced.
For How Long Can You Live With Bone Cancer?
If you catch bone cancer in its localized stage in your body, your survival rate will be around 81%. If cancer has already spread, the survival rate will decrease to 67%. And in case the spread has already reached the body’s distant parts, the chances of you surviving will be 38%.
How Does It Feel To Have Bone Cancer?
A person who has bone cancer will feel constant pain around their tumor. In the early stages of this cancer, the pain will be temporary. You will experience it more when the affected bone area is used or at night. With time, the pain will become more constant, and you will struggle to do any activity.