Bone is a firm part of our body that constitutes part of the vertebral skeleton. Healthy bones provide support & protect various organs of human body, yield red & white blood cells, store minerals & also allow mobility. Bone cancer is a diseased tumor of the bone that devastates healthy bone tissue. Not every bone tumor, is malignant in nature, in fact non-malignant tumors are more usual than malignant ones. Some recent studies estimate that by the end of 2016, there would be about 7,000 new cases & 3,500 deaths globally from cancer of the bones & joints. Survival rates of patients suffering from bone cancer vary depending upon a number of factors, including the stage & type of bone cancer.
What is Bone Cancer?
Bone cancer is cancer that affects the skeletal structure. Bones in the body are covered by a network of fibrous tissue known as ‘matrix’ & these act as a base for calcium salts. Outer part of bone is a harder covering called cortical bone which covers the lighter & the soft trabecular bone. Bones are developed in a constant process of degeneration & regeneration. In case any of the cells in bone get affected with cancer it starts an uncontrolled growth in them.
It is not clearly known what causes most bone cancers. Few surgeons & oncologists disclose that bone cancer may begin as a fallacy or error in cell’s DNA of patients. This error imparts cells to grow & multiply in an uncontrolled manner. These cells multiply & go on living, rather than dying at a normal time-set. Accumulating mutated cells eventually create a tumor that can infect surrounding structures or spread to various other parts of the body.
Commonly observed signs and symptoms of all types of bone cancer are given below.
- Pain – Affected bones develop signs of pain which gradually start with a dull ache & only increase in intensity at night when using the bone. This pain generally increases & becomes constant as cancerous cells continue growth.
- Swelling – Few weeks after being affected, the painful area might become inflamed & swollen around the cancerous growth on bone.
- Fractures – Nearly all types of bone cancers weaken boned they affect but complete fractures are rarely seen.
- Decreased Mobility – In some cases, if the tumor is present near a joint, it may make regular movements painful or difficult.
- Other Symptoms – Fatigue & weight loss accompanying bone pain may be an indication of bone cancer.
Types of Bone Cancers
Basically, there are two main types of bone cancer categories according to the origin of cancer cells, primary bone cancer & secondary bone cancer. Bone cancer is however further divided into the following types.
- Primary Bone Cancer – Primary bone cancer is the growth of cancerous cells starting from the bone itself. These involve cells of bone initially becoming cancerous.
- Secondary Bone Cancer – Secondary bone cancer is a form of cancer that has spread from another cancerous part of the body. This spreading of the cancer to surrounding parts of the body is called ‘metastatic’ or secondary cancer. Origin of these types of cancers is not in the bone & these cancerous cells will also retain properties & characteristics of the original cancerous tissue.
There are various types if primary cancers that are found to affect bone cells like the following.
This is one of the most commonly seen primary bone cancer & is mostly found in teenagers & adolescents, although chances of developing this cancer is irrelevant to age. This cancer can develop in any part of the skeletal structure such as the femur (lower thigh bone), tibia (shin bone) & humerus (upper arm bone).
This cancer is more prevalent among teenagers & usually originates at the hip (pelvic bone), thigh (femur) or the shin (tibia). Ewing’s sarcoma can also develop in soft tissues of the body & which is known as soft tissue sarcomas.
This type of bone cancer is mostly found in middle-aged adults of around 40 years & onwards. This is a form of cartilage cell cancer. Cartilage is the smooth material that generally covers the end of bones in a joint. Cartilage provides support & smooth movement to the joint. This cancer can affect cells inside the bone as well as develop outside. This excessive growth causes a lump around the affected joints & is usually seen in the pelvic bone (hip joint), femur bone (thighs), humerus bone (upper arm bone), ribs & the scapula (shoulder blade).
This type of bone cancer is similar to osteosarcomas but is not able to produce osteoid. This cancer is usually found in adults of over 40 years of age. Spindle cell sarcomas can include undifferentiated sarcoma of bone, fibrosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocystoma & leiomyosarcoma.
This is a very rare type of bone cancer and is mostly seen in adults between 40 – 60 years of age. Women have been found to be more prone to this type of bone cancer.
It is advisable to consult an experienced physician or general oncologist in case patients see multiple symptoms of bone cancer. After a thorough knowledge of patient’s medical history & performing a physical examination the doctor might suggest diagnostic imaging tests such as a bone scan, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, x-ray test or a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan. Biopsy can also be suggested to determine exact type of cancerous cells in order to help the doctor select the most-suitable cancer treatment for patients. Biopsy invariably requires removing a part of the cancerous tissue using minimally invasive methods such as a needle or a small incision, if required.
During initial consultation, oncologists are likely to ask patients a number of questions. Being ready to answer these queries may help the surgeon to identify the cause of bone cancer & then decide an appropriate method of treatment. They may ask the following questions.
- When did you start experiencing these symptoms?
- Have these symptoms been occasional or persistent?
- Can you tell me severity of these symptoms?
Patients should follow a healthy diet prior to treatment as well as after completion of the procedure. Patients should ask surgeons how to cope up with major stresses due to the health condition. They should make a note of all medications they are taking currently & tell surgeons about them.
As patients cope with bone cancer, they need to have an open & honest discussion with the oncologist. Patients should not hesitate to ask any doubts they have, no matter how strange it might seem. Some of these relevant questions which a patient may ask are listed below.
- What type of bone cancer do I have?
- Has my bone cancer advanced beyond the primary site?
- Can you elaborate the treatment choices I have?
- Which treatment do you suggest for me & why?
- If I want a second opinion, can you suggest a bone cancer specialist?
- What are the chances of my bone cancer returning back after the suggested treatment?
- What potential risks or side effects are there to the treatments you recommend?
- How should I prepare for my treatment?
- Based upon your experience, how long do you think I will survive?
- Will I be able to live a normal life?
Apart from these questions, patients should seek more information about recovery times so that they can plan their daily schedule. Or sometimes patients might want to take a second opinion before undergoing the specified treatment.
Treatment for bone cancer depends upon several factors such as patient’s fitness level & age, the extent to which cancer has spread as well as the type of bone cancer. Most common forms of bone cancer treatments are surgery, chemotherapy & radiation. Osteosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma & spindle cell sarcoma are usually treated with a combination of surgery & chemotherapy. Surgeons perform chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the size of the tumor (cancerous growth) so that it can be easily & efficiently be removed with a surgical procedure. Radiotherapy is most often used to treat Ewing’s sarcoma as it can be used successfully to shrink the tumor after surgery as well as lower the risk of cancer recurring in that spot once again. Team of highly-skilled & experienced health professionals will perform bone cancer treatments & which usually include specialist bone cancer surgeons, cancer specialists (oncologists), experienced surgical staff & others.
Once treatment of bone cancer has finished, the patient will need to attend regular follow-up sessions to check if the bone cancer has returned. They will be asked by surgeons to give frequent visits in the first two years after bone cancer treatment has completed, possibly after every three months. During these sessions, oncologists will ask specific questions about any troubles the patient might be having & could use evaluation exams, lab tests, x-rays & other scans to check for signs of cancer or bone cancer treatment side-effects.
Risks & complications due to bone cancer can be vast. Pain from the cancer itself is the most general complication, but various treatments for bone cancer, such as radiation, surgery & chemotherapy may come with their own health challenges & side-effects.
- Increased blood calcium – Increase in the amount of calcium in patient’s bloodstream can be a cause of worry.
- Osteomyelitis – Patients are at higher risk for bone infection known as osteomyelitis. This infection can cause chills, fever & pain. It can be fatal if not treated properly with antibiotics.
Complications of bone cancer surgery include the following.
- Amputation – In order to completely take off all cancerous tissue, oncologists may have to cut away the affected leg or arm.
- State of Shock – Bone cancer surgery can cause patient’s blood pressure to drop extremely low, putting the patient into state of shock.
- Hemorrhage – Surgical site can start bleeding vigorously, increasing the risk of shock.
- Wound Infection – Bacteria that infect the incision site can even invade the whole body, slowing recovery & making the patient sick.
Complications of chemotherapy are stated below.
- Loss of hair
- Vomiting caused by intestinal problems
- Increased bleeding & bruising
- Fatigue & weariness
- Extremely low blood counts
- Weight loss
Common complications of radiation therapy include the following.
- Redness or irritation of skin
For some patients with bone cancer, treatment may destroy or completely remove the cancer. It is extremely important for patients to go to all scheduled follow-up appointments regularly. When patients observe any severe side-effects after several months of treatment, they should talk to the oncologist regarding the problems or concerns they have. Following bone cancer surgery, a program of physical therapy will be an essential part of helping patients restore as much mobility & independence as possible.
Advantages of Medical Tourism in India for Bone Cancer Treatment
India holds a special place for medical tourism in the global context. Healthcare infrastructure in the country is of the most advanced international standards, with many top surgeons having trained for decades in UK & the United States. With increasing costs of cancer treatments such as, bone cancer, in developed countries, surgical interventions are beyond reach of common population. Affordable & low-cost bone cancer treatments in India offer respite to international patients without any bias.
Affordable Bone Cancer Treatments with Travcure Medical Tourism
Travcure medical tourism is one of the fastest growing globally reputed companies catering to international patients in Southeast Asia. Travcure healthcare is associated with several top chains of hospitals like Wockhardt, Fortis, Apollo, Columbia Asia, & Max Healthcare apart from a host of local favorites like AIIMS, Asia Heart Institute, Tata Memorial & Bombay Hospital. They can provide international patients with the best bone cancer treatments & surgeries & take care of every detail from the moment they arrive to a successful departure. Travcure medical tourism also offers a free initial cancer treatment consultation to people from all around the world.