Bone cancer, or a malignant tumor that actually starts in the bone, is a very rare form of cancer. When this does occur, it’s called primary bone cancer. But other types of cancer can affect the bones as well. When cancer begins in the lungs, breasts or other parts of the body and then spreads to the bones, this is known as metastatic cancer. There are also cancers that begin in the blood-producing cells of the bone, known as the bone marrow. These include multiple myeloma, leukemia and some lymphomas. But here again, these types of cancers are usually not referred to as "bone cancer."
If a cancer that is truly defined as bone cancer is present, it can affect any of the cells of the bones. The types of cancer most often found are osteosarcoma, which affects tissue known as osteoid; chondrosarcoma, which affects cartilage; and the Ewing sarcoma family of tumors, a group of cancers that often infect the soft tissue around the bones as well as the bones themselves.
In many cases, bone cancer may exhibit no symptoms. If bone cancer does present symptoms, the primary one is pain emanating from the bones. This pain can increase as the cancer progresses.
Causes of Bone Cancer
Bone cancer may be caused by genetic mutations. Other risk factors for developing bone cancer include age and smoking, though some people with no risk factors can also develop bone cancer.
The most common treatment for a bone cancer is surgery to remove the tumor. Surgical procedures have improved enough over the years that this can usually be done without the patient losing an entire limb. However, some type of reconstruction surgery may be necessary after the surgery to restore the bone to full function. After surgery, follow-up treatments of radiation, chemotherapy or cryosurgery may be required to rid the body of cancerous cells.
SOURCES: U.S. National Cancer Institute; American Cancer Society