July is Bone Cancer Awareness Month
Bone cancer is often a result of metastasis, which is when a cancer from another part of the body has spread to the bone. There are also primary cancers of the bone, however is relatively uncommon. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for primary cancer of the bones and joints for 2023 are: About 3,970 new cases diagnosed (2,160 in males; 1, 810 in females) About 2,140 deaths (1,200 in males; 940 in females).
The highest incidence rate of bone cancer in males is found among American Chinese in Hawaii. Among females, the population of Khon Kaen in Thailand exhibits the highest incidence rate of this cancer in the world. Osteosarcoma is the most common malignant primary bone tumor (if one considers myeloma a marrow cell tumor and not a primary bone tumor) and is highly malignant. It is most common among people aged 10 to 25, although it can occur at any age.
There are several different types of bone cancer. Most primary bone cancers are in the category of tumors called sarcomas, a kind of cancer that can affect soft tissues such as muscles and nerves as well as bone. Sarcomas have a diverse range of features at the molecular and cellular level. Because of that, not all bone sarcomas respond to the same types of treatment.
Types of Bone Cancer
- Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer. It is often found in the knee or upper arm.
- Chondrosarcoma begins in cartilaginous tissue. It can have different features, which can change the prognosis. The prognosis can be defined as dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma, clear cell chondrosarcoma, and mesenchymal chondrosarcoma.
- Ewing sarcoma is found most commonly along the backbone, the pelvis, the arms, or the legs.
- Malignant fibrous histiocytoma often starts in the soft tissue (connective tissue) rather than the bones. When it develops in bones, it affects the arms or legs and grows quickly, while also spreading to other parts of the body.
- Giant cell tumor of the bone develops in both benign and malignant forms but is extremely rare in malignant forms.
- Chordoma is a tumor that occurs at the base of the skull and bones of the spine. It grows slowly and often does not spread to other parts of the body. However, if not removed, it will grow back in the same area.
Risk Factors for Bone Cancer
Research is helping to increase our knowledge about bone cancer, and scientists are learning more about its causes. Common risk factors for the disease include:
- Genetic disorders such as the Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, the Rothmund-Thomson Syndrome, and the Multiple Exostoses Syndrome.
- Radiation or exposure to radioactive materials such as radium and strontium. This can cause bone cancer due to mineral buildup in the bones.
Treatment options for bone cancer include:
- Surgery – The primary treatment for bone cancer. It involves the entire removal of a tumor so that no additional cancer cells are found at the edge or border of the tissue removed.
- Cryosurgery – The use of liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy – The use of drugs to destroy cancer cells as a systemic (whole body) treatment. Patients who have bone cancer usually get a combination of chemo drugs. Chemotherapy is often a part of treatment for Ewing sarcoma and osteosarcoma, but it is seldom used for other bone cancers, like chondrosarcoma.
- Radiation therapy – The use of high-energy rays to kill or damage cancer cells. This treatment may be used in combination with surgery. It is often used to treat chondrosarcoma, which cannot be treated with surgery. It is also used to treat Ewing sarcoma, where it may be combined with chemotherapy and possibly surgery.
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