What Is Osteosarcoma?
is a bone cancer that typically develops in the shinbone (tibia) near the knee,
the thighbone (femur) near the knee, or the upper arm bone (humerus) near the
shoulder. It is the most common type of bone cancer in children.
tends to develop during growth spurts in early adolescence. This may be because
the risk of tumors increases during this period of rapid bone growth.
type of cancer is more common in boys than in girls. It is also more common in
tall children and African-Americans. In children, the average age of diagnosis
is 15. Osterosarcoma can be seen in adults over the age of 60 and it can also
be seen in people who have undergone radiation for cancer treatment.
Individuals who have a family history of cancers and who have retinoblastoma, a
cancer of the retina of the eye, have a higher incidence of sarcoma.
Symptoms of Osteosarcoma
of osteosarcoma vary depending on the location of the tumor. Common signs of
this type of cancer include:
- bone pain (in motion, at rest, or when lifting objects)
- bone fractures
- limitation of motion of joints
bone pain is experienced may vary. Your child may feel a dull ache or have pain
that keeps them awake at night. If your child has bone pain — or if you notice
any of the above symptoms — examine their muscles. In the case of osteosarcoma,
the muscles in the cancerous leg or arm may appear smaller than those in the
of osteosarcoma can mimic growing pains — pain in the legs caused by normal
bone growth. However, growing pains typically stop during the early teenage
years. Contact a doctor if your child has any chronic bone pain or swelling
past their initial growth spurts, or if the pain is causing your child serious
Tests to Detect
child’s doctor can use a variety of tools to diagnose osteosarcoma. They will
first conduct a physical examination to look for swelling and redness. The
doctor will also request information about your child’s medical history. This
includes previous illnesses and past medical treatments.
child’s doctor may do a simple blood test to check for tumor markers. These are
chemical readings in the blood that indicate the presence of cancer. Other
tests used to diagnose osteosarcoma include:
- CT scan: a 3-D X-ray used to examine bones and soft organs
in the body
- MRI: uses sound waves and powerful magnets to create
images of internal organs
- X-ray: produces images of dense tissue inside the body,
- PET scan: a full body scan often used to detect cancer
- biopsy: removal of a tissue sample from the bone for
- bone scan: a sensitive imaging test that shows bone
abnormalities that may be missed by other imaging tools (bone scans can also
tell doctors whether the cancer has spread to other bones)
Classification and Staging
can be classified as either localized (only present in the bone it started in)
or metastatic (present in other areas, such as the lung, or other, unconnected
tumors are staged in much the same way as other tumors, using either the Musculoskeletal
Tumor Society Staging System or the American Joint
Commission on Cancer guidelines.
and surgery are effective at treating osteosarcoma.
is often administered before surgery. This treatment method uses drugs that
help shrink and kill cancerous cells. The length of chemotherapy treatment
varies and may depend on whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the
body. For example, if your child’s cancer hasn’t spread, their doctor may
recommend six months of chemotherapy before surgery. Once your child finishes
the course of chemotherapy, surgery will be used to remove any remaining
most cases, surgeons can save the cancerous limb. They can surgically remove
the tumor and surrounding bone, and replace the missing bone with an artificial
one. Chemotherapy may resume after surgery to destroy any microscopic cancer
cancer can recur, even after chemotherapy and surgery. Your child will need
follow-up CT scans, bone scans, and X-rays to check for new tumors.
Complications of Osteosarcoma
and surgery may not completely cure osteosarcoma, and cancerous cells may
continue to grow and spread. Your child’s doctor may suggest amputation to stop
the spread of cancerous cells. This is the surgical removal of the cancerous
type of cancer can also spread to the lungs. Signs that bone cancer has metastasized
(spread) to the lungs include:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- coughing up blood
- chronic cough
given to your child before and after surgery may produce unpleasant side
effects. These side effects include:
- hair loss
- fluid retention
- anemia (low red blood cell count)
Long-Term Outlook for
prognosis for osteosarcoma is good if your child’s tumor is confined to the
original bone. In fact, 3 out of 4 people can be
cured if their tumors haven’t spread elsewhere. The survival rate is about 30
percent if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.