Bone cancer is a rare type of cancer that develops when cells in the bone start to grow out of control. In the UK alone, around 550 new cases are diagnosed each year. This guide will discuss bone cancer in its entirety to help you widen your understanding of the condition. Throughout the guide, we will answer some all-important questions: what causes bone cancer? What are the symptoms? How can you treat it?
What Is Bone Cancer?
Bone cancer starts when cells grow out of control and destroy bone tissue. Once these cells begin to grow, they can quickly spread to other parts of your body. Bone cancer can affect any of the bones in your body. However, it commonly affects long bones in your arms and legs and the pelvis.
It is important not to confuse bone cancer with other types that begin elsewhere in the body. Some cancers can spread (metastasise) to the bone. However, these cancers are named based on where they started. For example, if cancer forms in the breast and spreads to the bone, this is still named breast cancer.
Symptoms Of Bone Cancer
Like all types of cancer, there are some symptoms that are commonly associated with bone cancer. Familiarise yourself with the list below – so you know what to look out for:
- Sudden weight loss
- Persistent bone pain that worsens over time
- Weakened bones, leading to a fracture
- Mobility issues, e.g. walking with a limp
- Swelling and inflammation over the bone
If you are experiencing persistent bone pain, you must consult with your doctor/GP as soon as possible. Please note that this symptom does not always signify that you have bone cancer. However, it is beneficial to receive further attention to ensure that you are healthy.
What Causes Bone Cancer?
The cause of bone cancer is unknown. However, medical professionals have recognised that you are at an increased risk of developing bone cancer if you have had previous radiation exposure.
Bone cancer has also been linked to hereditary factors. Conditions such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome run in some families. This syndrome develops due to a gene fault inherited from your parents.
Bone cancer can also develop as a result of bone metastasis. This is when cancer has spread from another region of the body.
Another common risk factor is age. Like most medical conditions, your risk of bone cancer increases as you age. There are several different types of bone cancer. Some younger people have a higher risk for specific kinds than others.
Types Of Bone Cancer
Bone cancer is a complex disease – with more than one type. The different types are affected by cells in your body. We have listed and explored the common types below:
- Chondrosarcoma: This is the second most common form of bone cancer. Adults over the age of 40 commonly experience it. Chondrosarcoma starts in cartilage cells. Most people develop this type of bone cancer in their arms, legs, or pelvis.
- Osteosarcoma: This is the most common form of bone cancer. Younger children and adults under 20 are more likely to experience it in their arms and legs. Cancer cells appear – and develop tumours. These tumours create diseased bones.
- Ewing Sarcoma: Common in younger people between the ages of 10 and 20. It affects both the bones and the soft tissue that surrounds them. This type of bone cancer can develop in any bone. However, it commonly develops in the legs, pelvis, or arms.
Other bone disease
Apart from bone cancer, there are other diseases that may impact the health of your bones. As bone cancer is quite rare, it is more pertinent to introduce a regular health screening for these as they can be prevented with much more ease.
- Cervical spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis is a degenerative disease of the neck vertebrae, which causes compression of the spinal cord and cervical nerves. Prolonged degeneration causes narrowing of the spaces between vertebrae, which pushes the intervertebral disks out of place.
A disease that is characterized by the thinning of bones, with a consequent tendency to sustain fractures from minor stresses. Osteoporosis is most common in postmenopausal women over age 50 and it is estimated that approximately one-fourth of the world’s population of women over age 60 have some degree of osteoporosis (Utiger, 2022).
This disease manifests as a persistent pain in the metatarsal region, or ball, of the foot. The condition arises when the weight of the body, while standing, is forced to rest on the centre of the anterior arch (on the heads of the central metatarsal bones) instead of on the inside and outside of the foot. The most common causes of metatarsalgia is the wearing of improper footwear (high heels, poor running shoes), being overweight, high foot arch and age.
This disease is most common among children. It is characterized by softening of the bones, leading to abnormal bone growth, and is caused by a lack of vitamin D in the body. When rickets manifests in adults, it is known as osteomalacia.
Sciatica refers to a radiating pain along the sciatic nerves – the two longest nerves in the body stretching from your lower back through your hips and down each leg.
How Is Bone Disease Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing some of the symptoms related to bone cancer or other bone disease – and have concerns, you should make an appointment with your doctor at your nearest convenience. They will start by asking you a few questions about your symptoms – before examining the area and deciding whether further testing is required. A range of tests and cancer screenings can be carried out to help doctors determine a confident diagnosis. Take a look at the list of them below:
- Biopsy: A medical test requiring a small tissue sample to be removed. The sample is sent off to a lab for testing and is best for diagnosing bone cancer.
- X-Ray: Produces detailed images of the inside of your body.
- Bone Scan: Uses nuclear imaging to diagnose types of bone cancer.
- MRI Scan: Medical imaging technique used to produce images of the anatomy.
- CT bone mineral density scan: Medical imaging technique used to produce detailed internal images of the body. It is a non-invasive imaging procedure that uses x-rays combined with computerised technology to produce incredibly high-definition images of the bones.
- DEXA scan: is a type of bone density scan. It is used to measure the mineral content of your bones usually in your lower spine and hips. It operates using a transmission of low dose x-rays.
- CT EOS: An EOS scanner is a highly sophisticated type of CT scanner that is perfect for visualising the musculoskeletal system of a human whilst they are in a weight-bearing position. This aspect of it is precisely why it is the best as being able to see potential issues of the spine, hips and lower extremities as well as looking at things like sciatica
Core Cancer Package
If you want peace of mind that your health and well-being are in check, you can attend a health assessment. Health assessments are in-depth health checks that can detect early signs of issues like cancer. With this knowledge, doctors can work quickly to give patients the treatment they need before serious health issues spiral out of control.
At Echelon Health, we offer various packages and individual health assessments, including a core cancer package. This package includes effective diagnostic tests like MRI scans, CT scans, and blood tests. It focuses on detecting the most common cancers for males and females respectively and offers an individual view of your health rather than a statistical probability.
For those who want to have a full package and have complete peace of mind we also offer the Platinum Assessment. Our flagship assessment is able to detect up to 92% and 95% of preventable causes of death among men and women respectively.
Combining the best available imaging technology and years of medical expertise, we are able to see your body in incredible detail and visualise tumours as small as 2mm. The Platinum Assessment covers diseases such as coronary heart disease, various forms of cancer and also looks at risk of vascular dementia and other cerebrovascular disease as well as bone diseases such as osteoporosis and sciatica as mentioned above.
Below you can find the full list of scans and tests performed during a Platinum Assessment:
- Medical Questionnaire & Pre-Assessment
- Blood Tests
- CT Aorta
- CT Heart
- CT Coronary Angiogram
- CT Chest
- CT Pelvis
- CT Virtual Colonoscopy
- CT Bone Density
- CT Upright Skeleton
- MRI Brain
- MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram
- MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram
- MRI Prostate
- Ultrasound Thyroid
- Ultrasound Testes/ Ovaries
- Digital Mammogram
- Full Body Mole Screen
- Final Consultation
Health checks like these can save lives – and give you a clear overview of your general state of health. If you would like to know more about the packages we offer, don’t hesitate to contact us via our website. We aim to respond to your enquiry as soon as possible.
Utiger (2022). Osteoporosis. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/osteoporosis (accessed 14/07/22)