Bone cancer starts in bone cells called osteoclasts. These particular cells break down bone tissue when necessary, like during growth spurts or to heal fractures. When there’s enough stress put on bones, the osteoclasts release chemicals that cause them to divide and multiply at an accelerated rate.
If these cells continue to grow out of control, then they form tumors. Cancerous bone tumors can spread throughout the skeleton and destroy the surrounding bones. Bone cancer can affect children or adults, but it tends to occur more often in adolescents and young adults.
How Cancer Cells Are Formed
Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably, invade other tissues, and may metastasize to other areas of the body. Bone cancer usually starts when there are excessive numbers of certain types of white blood cells called myeloma cells.
These cells accumulate in the bone marrow and cause excessive growth of bone tissue. A few years later, the excess bone begins to break down, leaving painful lumps behind. Cancer cells are the main cause of death in patients with bone cancer.
Most people who suffer from bone cancer survive at least five years after diagnosis, though survival time varies widely among different types of cancer.
Some types of cancer start in other parts of the body and then travel to the bone. These are called primary bone cancers. Other forms of cancer that begin within the bone itself are called secondary bone cancers.
Bone cancer begins when cells abnormally grow out of their usual location in the body. These tumors cause abnormal growths that form hard lumps in the bones. While these tumors may start anywhere in the body, they often begin on the skin surface near the end of long bones like the femur, humerus, tibia, or fibula.
Sometimes, doctors will refer to these types of bone cancers as primary bone cancers because they start there. But other times, they may begin in another location and move to the bone. Those types of bone cancers are called secondary bone cancers.
Doctors must determine if the lesion is a benign tumor or something else before beginning any treatment. Treatment options depend on each patient’s age, size, and location of the tumor.
Surgery is usually the first option and may involve a biopsy to confirm whether the tissue is cancerous or not. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be considered after surgery.
Types of Bone Cancer
Osteosarcoma often starts in the ends of long bones like the femur, humerus, ulna, tibia, fibula, radius, or phalanx. It usually occurs during growth spurts when there are many layers of cells growing together.
This type of bone cancer spreads through the bone quickly and may spread to nearby tissues. There are two main types of osteosarcoma, osteoblastic and chondroblastic.
Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer. It usually starts in the bone marrow and spreads quickly throughout the body. It mostly affects children and teenagers.
The tumors can grow very large and often destroy nearby organs. The long bones of your upper body — like your arms and legs — are more likely to be affected. Ewing’s sarcoma can also affect your pelvic bones.
Chondroid sarcoma is a rare type of bone cancer that forms in cartilage instead of bone. Most chondroid sarcomas occur in teenagers and young adults. Chondroid sarcomas are typically low-grade malignant neoplasms.
Unlike myxoid liposarcomas, which tend to occur in younger age groups, chondroid sarcoma occurs in patients aged 25 to 50 years old. Patients usually experience swelling, pain, and impaired mobility at the site of the tumor.
X-rays may show a “ground glass” appearance and an osteolytic lesion. A CT scan will allow the radiologist to see that it is a solid mass. MRI reveals that chondroid sarcomatous lesions appear hypo-intense on T1 images and hyperintense on T2 images.
The tumor cells produce cartilage matrix proteins (cartilaginous markers) like collagen II, fibronectin, laminin, and proteoglycan core protein.
Bone cancer may not be rare, but it is usually found at an advanced stage, making treatment less effective. These cancers often grow quickly.
For example, a tumor may begin growing within three months of developing. Some patients feel pain or discomfort before doctors notice anything wrong. If you suspect bone cancer, call your doctor right away.
Do not wait until you cannot function well and your body is starting to give up. Once you notice that there are already some changes in your health and body functioning, it is recommended to consult your doctor as soon as possible.