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Home >About Cancer > Types of Cancer > Bone Cancer

Primary Bone Cancer is cancer that actually starts in bone tissue. Bone Cancer can occur in any of the bones of the body, but it occurs most often in the long bones of the arms and legs. While it can occur at any age, the most common types occur in children and young adults.

Types of Bone Cancer


Primary Bone Cancer is relatively rare. About 2,400 cases are diagnosed every year. Primary Bone Cancer can occur in any of the 206 bones of the adult human body, but it occurs most often in the long bones of the arms and legs. Although Bone Cancer can occur at any age, the most common types occur in children and young adults.


Bone Cancers form in the cells that make hard bone tissue. Cancers that arise in the cells produced in the bone marrow, such as leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma, are not considered Bone Cancers, although they do affect the bone and may require orthopedic management.


Benign (non-cancerous) bone tumors are more common than malignant (cancerous) ones. Although benign tumors do not spread, and are rarely life threatening, both types may grow and compress healthy bone tissue and absorb or replace it with abnormal tissue.


Osteosarcoma:
Osteosarcoma is the most common type of Primary Bone Cancer, making up 35 percent of Bone Cancer cases. This cancer affects primarily children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 25. Osteosarcoma often starts in the ends of bones, where new tissue forms as children grow. It arises most often in the knee.

Chondrosarcoma:
Chondrosarcomas, one of the most common types of Bone Cancer in adults over age 50, form in cartilage, usually around the pelvis, knee, shoulders, or upper part of the thighs. These cancers make up 26 percent of all Bone Cancer cases.

Ewing's Sarcoma:
Ewing's Sarcoma occurs most often in the middle part of bones, arising most often in the hip, ribs, upper arm, and thighbones. Like Osteosarcoma, this cancer affects primarily children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 25. Ewing's Sarcoma is responsible for 16 percent of Bone Cancer cases.

Rarer Bone Cancers:
The following types of Bone Cancer are rare, and occur primarily in adults:


Fibrosarcomas usually appear in the knee or hip area. They can arise in older patients after radiation therapy for other cancers.


Adamantinomas usually occur in the shinbone.


Chordomas are found most often in the sacrum, the lower part of the spine, also known as the tailbone.



Metastatic Bone Cancer:
Metastatic Bone Cancer, cancer that starts somewhere else in the body and then spreads to the bone, is much more common than primary Bone Cancer. Although any type of cancer can spread to the bone, the most common types are those of the breast, lung, kidney, thyroid, and prostate. Bone Metastases most often arise in the hip, femur (thighbone), shoulder, and spine. Like other types of cancer, those that start in the bone can also spread to other parts of the body. The remainder of this overview focuses on the primary Bone Cancers Osteosarcoma and Ewing's Sarcoma.



Symptoms


The most common symptom of Bone Cancer is pain, which is caused either by the spread of the tumor or by the breaking of bone that is weakened by a tumor. Stiffness or tenderness in the bone may also occur. Sometimes there are other symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, swelling, and stumbling.


But these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions. Only a doctor can tell for sure whether or not a patient has Bone Cancer.


Diagnosis
As with most illnesses, the first part of the diagnosis of suspected Bone Cancer is a discussion with the doctor about the patient's personal and family medical history. Then the doctor performs a complete medical examination and conducts various tests.


Laboratory Tests
One key test is an examination of a patient's blood for alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme that can be found at particularly high levels in the blood when bone-forming cells are very active. This kind of high activity occurs normally when a young child's bones are growing, or when a broken bone is mending. Otherwise, it might be an indication that a tumor is creating abnormal bone tissue. Since alkaline phosphatase may rise in response to other causes, high levels don't necessarily indicate whether a patient has Bone Cancer, but they do signal the need for further evaluation.

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