Bone cancer is a malignant (cancerous) tumor of the bone that destroys normal bone tissue. Not all bone tumors are malignant. In fact, benign (noncancerous) bone tumors are more common than malignant ones. Both malignant and benign bone tumors may grow and compress healthy bone tissue, but benign tumors do not spread, do not destroy bone tissue, and are rarely a threat to life.
Malignant tumors that begin in bone tissue are called primary bone cancer. Cancer that metastasizes (spreads) to the bones from other parts of the body, such as the breast, lung, or prostate, is called metastatic cancer.
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.
Surgery is the primary (main) treatment for the most types of bone cancers. Surgery may also be needed for the biopsy to detect the cancerous cells. The biopsy and the surgical treatment are separate operations, but it is very important that the doctor plans both together. Ideally, the same surgeon should do both the biopsy and the main surgery.
It is also possible to remove just the tumour only even if the cancer is in your hip bones (the pelvis) to avoid amputation and leaving the limb intact as such. In the past, sometimes the whole leg and hip had to be removed.
The surgeon removes the cancerous part of the bone and replaces it with a metal implant called prosthesis. If the cancer is near a joint, the surgeon will remove the joint as well and replace it with a false one. This type of surgery is more commonly done in the leg bones such as the femur or tibia. These operations are called femoral replacement surgery and tibial replacement surgery respectively. It is also done in the major bone of the upper arm, called the humerus. This operation is called humeral replacement surgery.
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. Patients who have bone cancer usually receive a combination of anticancer drugs. However, chemotherapy is not currently used to treat chondrosarcoma.
Approximately 40% of patients of all types of cancer undergo some kind of radiotherapy. It involves the use of beams of high-energy X-rays or particles (radiation) to destroy cancer cells. Radiotherapy works by damaging the DNA inside the tumour cells and destroying their ability to reproduce.
Radiotherapy can be used for different reasons:
Cryosurgery is the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill cancer cells. This technique can sometimes be used instead of conventional surgery to destroy the tumors. Cryosurgery is also used to treat tumors inside the body (internal tumors and tumors in the bone). For internal tumors, liquid nitrogen or argon gas is circulated through a hollow instrument called a cryoprobe, which is placed in contact with the tumor. The doctor uses ultrasound or MRI to guide the cryoprobe and monitor the freezing of the cells, thus limiting the damage to nearby healthy tissue.
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