Cancer is a disease in which the cells grow uncontrollably and there are more than 100 types of cancers present in the world, one of them is bone cancer.
Bone cancer is a rare type of cancer which includes abnormal growth of bone cells.
Bone cancer treatment focuses on either removing the bone tumor or reducing the mass of cancerous cells.
In this article we will look forward to the bone cancer treatment and diagnosis of the bone cancer, but before that let’s look at its causes and symptoms.
What are the Causes of Bone Cancer?
Some of most ubiquitous (present everywhere) factors that can lead to bone cancer are:
- Genetic heredity of defective genes
- Exposure to radiation
- Spread of cancer from other part of the body to bone
- Abnormal healing of an injury
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bone Cancer?
Most frequent signs and symptoms of bone cancer are:
- Bone pain which is progressive and continues in day as well as night
- Lump formation
- Swelling and redness
- Problem in moving the affected area
What are the Diagnostic Tests for Bone Cancer?
Bone cancer can be detected by several methods but depends on some factors including
- Type of bone cancer suspected – The most common type of bone cancer is osteosarcoma which begins in the cells that form bone. It is aggressively malignant and can cause major problems.
- Signs and symptoms – The major symptoms may also affect the type of diagnosis a person should go through.
- Age and general health – A patient’s age and general health or previous exposure to radiation will influence the type of diagnostic test suggested by the doctor.
Some of the most common diagnostic test for bone cancer are:
A biopsy is a type of diagnostic test in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the affected area and examined under the microscope by pathologists.
Other diagnostic tests can predict the presence of cancer, but biopsy is the only one that can give definite results.
Different biopsies are performed according to the organ, namely needle biopsy and incision biopsy.
In needle biopsy, a small needle like instrument is used to collect samples from the tissue, whereas in incision biopsy, a small cut is made in the tumor and tissue sample is collected.
Bone cancer or commonly osteosarcoma is a rare disease which requires expert pathologists and doctors to identify the tumor and treat the sarcoma.
2. CT scan
CT or CAT scan stands for Computed tomography, which involves taking x-ray of the body from different angles.
A computer examines these images and combines them to produce a 3D image of the body to scan the location of the tumor. Mostly it is used to measure the size of the tumor.
To get a more detailed image sometimes, a special dye known as contrast medium is given to the patient via injection in the veins or pills.
3. MRI scan
Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan used a magnetic field to produce an image of the body. Unlike other scans that used x-ray, it provides a more detailed image of the bones and soft tissues.
It assists oncologists navigate the procedure of surgery for the removal of bone tumors.
A dye can be used to provide contrast to the image. This dye can be taken by the patient via intravenous or oral route of administration.
4. Bone scan –
Bone scan is an effective way to identify the stage of a bone tumor.
It uses a radioactive tracer to look inside the body while emitting a small amount of radiation which is considered harmless.
This radioactive tracer is introduced into the patient’s body via blood vessels and detected by a special camera.
It gets collected in the bones and specially in affected areas, which can be identified clearly.
5. PET scan –
Positron emission tomography (PET) or PET-CT scan is specially used to determine the stage of cancer.
A PET scan is a way to create an image of an organ or tissue using radioactive sugar substance.
This radioactive sugar gets absorbed by cells of the body of the patient to provide energy to the cells.
As the cancerous cells are more active than normal cell, they absorb the radioactive sugar radially.
A scanner is used to detect the radioactive substance and create an image of the organ and the part of the tumor.
6. X-ray –
An x-ray is a way to create a picture of the structures inside of the body using a small amount of radiation.
It is usually used to first determine if pain or inflammation is a result of cancer or any fracture.
Most doctors first ask to get an x-ray to determine the true cause of symptoms.
Bone Cancer Treatment
Most prevalent bone tumor is osteosarcoma which requires treatment and care to improve the condition of the patient.
Bone cancer treatment typically includes surgery and chemotherapy with radiation therapy in some cases.
Nowadays as the technology improves day by day, new therapies are enhancing the treatment of bone tumors.
Some of the most common treatments are:
1. Surgery –
The treatment of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is mostly done through surgery in which doctors try to remove all the cancer.
Surgery can be done in two ways:
a.) Limb- Salvage Surgery –
The main aim of Limb-salvage Surgery is to remove the cancer and some part of surrounding tissue but still leaving the limb intact.
This is extraordinarily complex surgery as special skilled surgeons are required to perform this surgery, where they remove the tumor and save all the other tissues such as blood vessels, tendons, ligaments etc. to keep the arms or legs working properly.
If the tumor got spread into tendons it is preferred to go under amputation. In this process the removed bone is replaced by bone graft, but it comes with different complications including infection and rod being loose or broken which will eventually lead to amputation.
b.) Amputation Surgery –
If the tumor spreads into the blood vessels and surrounding tissues of the bone, it is advised to amputate the limb.
Many people are afraid of amputation surgeries because of losing their organs but it is very much safe and nowadays a lot of modern technology is able for external prosthetics.
2. Radiation Therapy –
Radiation therapy is most often used to treat Ewing’s sarcoma and not used for most of the bone cancers. Most often, the radiation is given as a part of other treatments.
The radiation therapy is not painful and does not require the patient to be in the machine for long. It can be done after surgery or without any surgery. After surgery, it is done to remove any cancerous cell left behind.
Radiation therapy can be used for bone cancer treatment when the tumor cannot be removed easily, and it also helps to reduce the symptoms such as pain and swelling.
3. Chemotherapy –
As the name suggests chemo means drug, chemotherapy focuses on treating the cancer by giving drugs through veins or orally.
It can reach any body part and hence helps to destroy cancer cells that might have spread to other organs.
It is often used to treat Ewing sarcoma, osteosarcoma, and undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS). Chemo is famous for its side effects, some of which are hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite etc.
What is the Success Rate of Treatment?
Usually, success rate of bone cancer treatment depends upon the stage of tumor or how early it was diagnosed? But in many cases bone cancer is successfully treated.
Sometimes people may require multiple surgeries to attain this success whereas some people may go under radiation and chemotherapy to keep the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
What is the Survival Rate of Bone Cancer?
For localized osteosarcomas particularly, the five-year survival rate ranges from 60 to 80 percent.
The chance of survival is between 15 and 30 percent if the cancer has gone beyond the bone. It may vary depending upon the type of cancer, diagnosis and treatment.
What is the 5-year Survival Rate of Bone Cancer According to Age?
The children between the age group of 0-19 years with osteosarcoma have a 5-year survival rate of 68%.
If osteosarcoma is diagnosed and treated at primary stage (before it spreads to other organs), there is a high chance of around 74% of survival.
What is the Cost of Bone Cancer Treatment?
The average cost of bone cancer treatment in India ranges from 5 lakhs to 8 lakhs, which is an estimate of 7-14 days of stay in hospital.
The cost listed above covers the cost of a private room where a companion may accompany the patient during surgery, as well as the cost of consumables, medications, nursing care, meals, and airport transportation.
The outlook, or prognosis of bone cancer entirely depends on the type of cancer. As the exact reason for the occurrence of bone cancer is not known hence it is difficult to predict the lifestyle changes that can prevent bone cancer.