What is Bone Cancer?
Bone cancer is a rare form of cancer that begins in your bones and can spread to other parts of the body. There are three main types of bone cancer – Osteosarcoma, Ewing’s Sarcoma and Chondrosarcoma.
Many types of cancers can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. One of the most common occurrences happens when cancer spreads to the bone, called bone metastasis. Once cancer cells get inside bone, they can keep healthy bone from forming, which can cause bones to become thin and weak.
Types of cancers most likely to spread to the bone include:
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Thyroid cancer
Where does bone cancer spread to?
One of the most common places for cancer to spread to (metastasize) is on the spine. If cancerous growths on the spine (metastases) grow too big, they can push on your spinal cord, which can cause pain and sometimes, even paralysis. Call your oncologist immediately if you have worsening back pain, leg weakness, arm weakness, loss of bladder or bowel control, back or leg pain at the same time, or numbness/tingling in the arms, legs or belly.
Other common areas for it to spread are:
- Hip bone (pelvis)
- Skull, ribs and spine
- Upper leg bone (femur)
- Upper arm bone (humerus)
Diagnosing bone cancer
A key symptom of bone cancer is bone pain during simple activities such as walking or picking something up. Your physician may choose to investigate symptoms further through a bone scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scan (computed tomography), X-ray or PET scan (positron emission tomography).
If a tumor is detected, your physician will conduct a biopsy to determine if the tumor is cancerous. Not all bone tumors are cancerous. If cancer is detected, you may be referred to a specialist for staging to determine more information about the cancer and if it has spread beyond the tumor. This staging will help the doctors decide what bone cancer treatment options are best.
Bone cancer treatment
Radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery are common treatment routes for bone cancer. In rare cases, when the tumor is large enough, amputation of the limb may be required.
Bone metastases are one of the most common types of metastases. Luckily, it is also one of the most treatable. There are many different treatments for cancer that has spread to the bone.
Bone cancer treatment can include:
- Bone-building drugs
- Hormone therapy
- Intravenous radiation
Managing pain with bone cancer
Cancer that has spread to the bone can be very painful. Please talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing bone pain. There are medications, treatments and specialists that can help reduce pain.
How to take care of your bones after a bone cancer diagnosis
Even if your cancer has spread to your bone, there are things you can do to help keep your bones healthy and strong.
- Do not smoke.
- Limiting alcohol to one drink a day (for women) and two drinks a day (for men).
- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D (low fat dairy products, kale and other dark green, leafy vegetables, broccoli and acorn and butternut squash, canned salmon or sardines with bones, calcium-fortified foods and drinks).
- Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercises and those that improve balance.
- Take precautions to prevent falls. Thin bones are more likely to break during a fall. Consider using a cane or talking to your doctor about a strength training program.