Every year, February 4 is observed as World Cancer Day to raise awareness about cancer, its diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. According to the Cancer Statistics Report, 2020, India’s cancer burden stands at 94.1 per 100,000 male individuals and 103.6 per 100,000 female population. While awareness on lung cancer, breast cancer and stomach cancers is still rising, the focus on bone cancer is often lesser in comparison.
The skeletal system of an adult human consists of 206 bones. They serve as protectors of our internal organs, allow us mobility, and provide the necessary support to our muscles. However, in some rare cases, the healthy cells within the bones may begin to grow out of control, creating a mass referred to as a tumour. This is what leads to ‘bone cancer’ or ‘bone neoplasm’.
A rare form of cancer, it is also known as sarcoma of bone, and even though it may start growing in any bone in the body, mostly impact is found to be on the long bones in the arms and legs. A bone tumour could be benign or cancerous. A cancerous tumour will grow and aggressively spread to other parts of the body. However, a benign tumour will grow but not spread to other parts of the body.
Possible symptoms of bone cancer include pain in the affected area, lump around the area where pain occurs, fractures caused due to weakened bones, drastic weight loss, difficulty in breathing, etc. However, most of these symptoms tend to be associated with conditions such as Osteoporosis or Arthritis. Hence, it’s best to visit and discuss with the doctor on how to approach the illness.
The primary cause behind bone cancer is still considered unknown to this very day. However, there are certain factors that are known to increase the risk of a person contracting this disease. Those factors are genetic disorders such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome or Rothmund-Thompson syndrome and experience with prior treatments such as Radiation therapy or Bone marrow transplantation.
Numerous means of treatment are available for curing bone cancer, but they tend to depend on several factors including the type of cancer, size, stage, age, and location of the tumour. Most treatments include targeted therapy, chemotherapy radiation therapy, orthopedic oncology and most commonly, cancer-removal surgeries.
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Bone Cancers can also be divided into several types on the basis of where they occur and the type of cell, with some being rarer than others:
* Osteogenic sarcoma tends to begin in the bone cells of the arms, legs or pelvis and typically affects people between the ages of 10-30.
* Chondrosarcoma forms in the cartilage cells and is quite uncommon for people at the age of 20 and below.
* Ewing’s sarcoma is frequently seen in children and adolescents.
* Fibrosarcoma generally develops and grows in the skeletal tissues and occurs in elderly people.
* Chordoma develops in the base of the skull and in the bones of the spine and is commonly found in older adults.
While bone cancer may be a painful disease to contract, the rate of occurrence for such cancers is very infrequent, approximating about 0.2 percent of all cancers. As such, the likelihood of developing bone cancer is quite low in most people. However, that being said, it is still advisable to take any and all precautionary measures to reduce the risk of incurring the disease by holding regular screenings with your doctor and getting it detected early in the event that you do contract it.