Know the basics
What is osteosarcoma?
Osteosarcoma, also known as osteogenic sarcoma, is a type of bone cancer that begins in the cells that form your bones. The disease occurs when the cells form a cancerous tumor instead of their task of growing new bone. Osteosarcoma usually happens in the long bones in your arms and legs, often near the knee or shoulder though it can occur in any bone.
It is less common that you have the disease in the pelvic bones, jaw, or ribs. It also rarely develops in the fingers or toes.
How common is osteosarcoma?
In fact, osteosarcoma is properly rare despite being the most common type of bone cancer. It affects children and young adults but it can also occur in older adults. The risk of getting osteosarcoma is slightly higher in males than in females. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of osteosarcoma?
The common signs and symptoms of osteosarcoma are:
- Swelling or lumps around bones or the ends of bones, tenderness near the affected area;
- Bone or joint pain, or soreness;
- Broken bones that don’t seem to be caused by normal reasons, like a fall;
- Bone pain;
If children have the disease, they may experience pain at night or after playing or physical exercise. Moreover, they might get a limp if osteosarcoma affects their legs.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you experience the pain, swelling, or breaks in musculoskeleton system. Also, you need to see your doctor right away if having persistent or unexplained pain and swelling in a bone or joint.
Know the causes
What causes osteosarcoma?
Osteosarcoma is caused by the fact that abnormal cells continually divide and stay survive longer than normal. They start forming masses of tissue that turn into tumors and results in the disease at last.
The condition can also be a result from an error in DNA, also called genetic code. Due to mistakes, cells that grow to make bone create osteosarcoma tumors, which means that the disease happens as an error in a cell’s DNA. This error tells the cell to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way.
Going through treatments like radiation therapy for other types of cancer, or cancer medicines called alkylating agents, can contribute to your disease too.
In children, the cause for the disease can be the rapid growth of their bones. If their bones are growing too quickly than normal, they are more likely to get osteosarcoma. It can be understood that a child who is unusually tall can have the disease.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for osteosarcoma?
There are many risk factors for osteosarcoma, such as:
- Inherited genetic problems. Certain rare genetic syndromes passed through families increase the risk of bone cancer, including Li-Fraumeni syndrome and hereditary retinoblastoma;
- Paget’s disease of bone;
- Radiation therapy for cancer. Experiencing large doses of radiation such as those given during radiation therapy for cancer also put you at risk of osteosarcoma in the future;
- Currently or previously having multiple tumors in the cartilage, which is the connective tissue in the bone.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is osteosarcoma diagnosed?
The first step that your doctor do to diagnose your osteosarcoma is to ask about your symptoms or if you have trouble in moving the limb or using the joint, and check for more common causes of limb pain and swelling, such as sports injuries and arthritis. The painful area, feeling for warmth, swelling, and tenderness will be checked along with that the doctor can look for signs of joint swelling or fluid.
In case your doctor doesn’t get the true cause of your symptoms, an x-ray of the area as well as blood tests can be ordered. The blood tests will be normal while the x-ray typically shows characteristic abnormalities suggesting cancer.
When it is determined that you have a bone tumor by x-ray evidence, you can be required to go to a major medical center to treat bone cancer. There, you may have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the area to determine how far the tumor has invaded nearby nerves, blood vessels, and joints.
Doctors also need biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. In a biopsy, you can be taken a small piece of bone to be checked for cancer cells in a laboratory.
How is osteosarcoma treated?
Mostly an osteosarcoma is treated by a three-step approach that includes chemotherapy, surgery and follow-up additional chemotherapy. In advance, chemotherapy can be given to you so that they can help to destroy as much of the tumor as possible before surgery.
Patients are chosen for when the cancerous bone can be removed without amputating the limb. Gaps caused by the cancer which is removed then tare filled with a bone graft or a synthetic prosthesis to make sure that patients are able to keep as much limb function as possible.
The third step is that you are given a second course of chemotherapy after surgery.
Limb-sparing surgery to treat your disease can be difficult to be performed in some cases. If the tumor has invaded critical blood vessels or part of a nearby joint, the limb may need to be amputated.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage osteosarcoma?
The fact is osteosarcoma cannot be prevented. The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you reduce some risks of getting osteosarcoma:
- Apply vitamins and nutrients for bone system. Remember to consult your doctor before taking those nutrients.
- To relieve symptoms, you can use some forms of acupuncture and massage;
- Learn enough about bone cancer to make decisions about your care;
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
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Osteosarcoma. http://www.drugs.com/health-guide/osteosarcoma.html. Accessed July 20, 2016.
Osteosarcoma. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1256857-overview. Accessed July 20, 2016.