Bone Cancer

Understanding Bone Cancer

There are two types of bone cancer: primary and secondary. Primary bone cancer originates in the bone or tissues joining bones together, such as connective tissue. It is the result of the actual bone and/or tissue cells becoming cancerous. Secondary bone cancer (bone metastases) originates as cancer somewhere else in the body and then spreads to the bones. These cells resemble cells from the cancer’s origin and are not actual bone and/or tissue cells that became cancerous.

Although most cancers can spread to the bone, the most common secondary bone cancers include:

Signs and Symptoms of Bone Cancer

The first symptom of bone cancer usually begins with the onset of a fairly constant pain and/or tenderness near the cancer area. This pain is caused by the cancer stretching the periosteum (a thick membrane that covers the bone) or by stimulation of the nerves within the bone. If the pain lasts for more than a week or two and doesn’t subside, it should be evaluated by a physician.

Diagnosing Bone Cancer

Norton Cancer Institute offers a complete range of diagnostic tests and procedures to help detect bone cancer:

Radiological Tests

  • Standard X-ray: Shows an internal picture of the bone. The cancerous area will show up as one or more dark spots on the X-ray that look like holes in the bones.
  • Bone scan: A type of X-ray that uses radioactive particles injected into a vein. These particles circulate through the body and are selectively picked up by the bones. A high concentration of these radioactive particles appearing on the bone indicates the presence of rapidly growing cancer cells.
  • Skeletal survey: Another form of X-ray that surveys the entire skeletal system looking for blastic lesions, or lesions where extra bone has built up.

Surgical Biopsy

  • Needle biopsy: The surgeon makes a small hole in the bone and uses a large needle to remove a tissue sample from the tumor.
  • Incisional biopsy: The surgeon slices into the tumor and removes a tissue sample.

Blood Tests

Blood tests can detect the presence of bone cancers before they manifest as physical symptoms. Bone cancers cause bone remodeling activity to increase. Healthy bone tissue is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. When a bone becomes cancerous, the diseased cells disrupt the balance between the osteoclasts (cells that break down bone) and the osteoblasts (cells that build bone). When these cancer cells are present in the bones, some proteins, genes or byproducts from the osteoblasts are produced at a higher rate than normal. Higher levels can indicate that a cancer has progressed.

The extracted tissue is examined under a microscope to determine if it is cancerous.

Bone tumors we treat

Our orthopedic specialists provide treatment for the following benign bone and soft-tissue tumors  and related conditions:

Benign bone tumors

  • Bone cyst
  • Bone infection
  • Bone island
  • Chondroblastoma
  • Chondromyxoid fibroma
  • Enchondroma
  • Enostosis
  • Fibrous dysplasia
  • Giant cell tumor
  • Hemangioma
  • Histiocytosis X
  • Juxtacortical chondroma
  • Nonossifying fibroma
  • Osteoblastoma
  • Osteochondroma
  • Osteofibrous dysplasia
  • Osteoid osteoma

Benign soft-tissue tumors

  • Desmoid/fibromatosis
  • Fibroma/elastofibroma
  • Giant cell tumor
  • Hemangioma
  • Lipoma/lipoblastoma
  • Mesenchymoma
  • Myositis ossificans/fasciitis/myositis
  • Neuroma/neurofibroma/schwannoma
  • Pigmented villonodular synovitis
  • Xanthoma
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