Bone Cancer Treatment Details

Bone cancer is when a cancerous tumor is found growing out of control in the midst of normal, healthy bone tissue. This usually results in the death of the healthy bone tissue and the continued growth of cancerous tissue. The cancerous tissue can also spread to other areas of the body. This type of cancer, when starting in the bone and moving elsewhere, is much less common than other types and usually occurs in three forms. Osteosarcoma affects people from ages 10-19 and usually begins in the upper body. Chondrosarcoma affects individuals 40 and above and is usually seen in the cartilage. Ewing’s sarcoma affects individuals under the age of 19 and occurs in boys more often than girls.  Certain genetic disorders and radiation may be risk factors for this type of cancer.

 

One of the most common signs of bone cancer is pain and swelling in the affected area and is usually characterized by an increase in severity over time.  In more advanced cases, the malignant tissue may result in breakage of the actual bone.  There are various methods available to treat bone cancer and it is imperative that the patient consults with his/her doctor to determine the appropriate treatment.

Before Bone Cancer Treatment

Surgery is the usual method of treatment for bone cancer and in order to determine if the patient actually has malignant tumors growing in their bone tissue and assess whether or not a surgery is necessary, imaging tests must be performed.  This may include X-rays, bone scans, CAT scans, MRI, and/or PET scans.  These techniques allow the physician to take a closer and more in-depth look at the area of interest to determine if the area of interest is infected and to what extent.  Biopsy, the removal of a sample of the suspected tissue for further analysis, may be done to determine whether the tissue in question is cancerous.  This procedure usually involves using a needle to bore a small hole in the bone and take portion of tissue.  Blood tests are also an effective way to determine if bone tissue is cancerous but it is not as reliable as other methods.  It is important that the patient speaks to his/her doctor in order to determine if surgery is necessary or if other treatments are sufficient. 

 

Other possible methods of treatment include: Chemotherapy (using anticancer drugs to kill the malignant tissue), Radiation therapy (using intense X-rays to destroy cancerous cells), and Cryosurgery (freezing offending cells with liquid nitrogen).               

How it is performed

Surgical removal of the malignant tissue is the primary form of treatment for bone cancer and often takes different forms depending on the severity of the infection.  The goal of surgery is to make sure to remove all cancerous tissue and, with severe cases, this may include complete amputation of limbs.  It is sometimes possible to perform reconstructive surgery in these cases to rescue some of what was lost.  Whether the surgery involves a removal of a small amount of tissue or a complete amputation, these procedures are performed under anesthesia. 

Due to the various way in which bone cancer can manifest in patients and the many areas it can grow, the surgical procedure caries greatly between individual patients and requires the expertise of specialists to determine the protocol of the surgery and its details. 

Oftentimes, surgeries done meant to save limbs require the implantation of prosthetics to assist the remaining portions of the limb in normal functions and mobility.

Recovery

The rate of recovery for a patient after undergoing surgery for bone cancer greatly depends on the amount of tissue taken.  If an amputation was done, the patient may have to become accustomed to a prosthetic limb or a newly surgically reconstructed limb which could take anywhere from 6 months to several years.  This may be additionally difficult for children whose growth may make recovery more complicated. 

Importantly, it is imperative that the patient monitors any noticeable changes in their own bodies and has regular doctor visits to ensure that the cancerous tissue does not return or has not spread to other areas of the body. 

Potential Risks

Bone cancer surgery is an invasive surgery and, therefore, comes with the risks generally associated with such a procedure.  This includes: infection, excessive blood loss, pain, and numbness and/or stiffness.  As with most cancers, there is also the risk that the cancerous tissue may persist after surgery which is why it is advised that the patient receive regular check-ups.  With surgeries that affect limbs, there may be a permanent change to how the limb performs in the future.   

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