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The term cancer covers a group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide without cause and control, thereby invading and harming other tissues. There are different types of cancer, that are named according to the affected location. The condition may develop in bones too, and such cancers are collectively referred to as sarcomas. Cancer that begins in the bone, is known as primary bone cancer; as opposed to the cancer that spreads to the bone, but originates elsewhere. Typically, primary bone cancer is less common than cancer that spreads to the bone from another part of the body, which is referred to as secondary or metastatic bone cancer.

Primary bone cancer is classified into four main types. The most common type is multiple myeloma, a cancer that originates from the bone marrow and causes bone tumors. This cancer is mostly seen in elderly people, who are in the age group of 50 to 70. Osteosarcoma affects the osteoid tissue, the hard tough part of the bone; and is most commonly seen in the bones of the upper arm, hip, and knee. Chondrosarcoma originates from cartilaginous tissues, which line the bone tips and pad joints. It commonly affects the pelvis, upper leg, and shoulders. Ewing's Sarcoma affects the bone as well as the nerve tissues surrounding it; typically in the legs, arms, ribs, and pelvis. Ewing's sarcoma and osteosarcoma are most often seen in people in the age group of 5 to 25, while chondrosarcoma is seen in older patients.

The nature and severity of the symptoms may vary, according to the location and the size of the tumor. Legs are among those locations that are more prone to develop bone cancer.

Symptoms

Usually, bone cancer symptoms get noticed only when the disease has advanced considerably. Most of the affected people develop generalized symptoms that are often misdiagnosed. Symptoms like leg pain or joint pain in young children, are often attributed to their active lifestyle, and are brushed aside or dismissed.

Leg Pain: Pain is the most common symptom of bone cancer. The affected leg or joint develops pain that is often described as consistent and dull, like a persistent ache. It can also be like an intermittent, sharp, and jabbing pain. The pain may increase steadily, as the condition advances; but at the same time, may not show up at all for several weeks or months even when you have a malignant growth. The pain may worsen while walking, and the affected person may also limp. Leg pain due to bone cancer may worsen during nighttime. Apart from the pain, bone cancer may cause various other symptoms.
  • In some cases, if the tumor grows to an appreciable size, the affected site may develop a lump-like growth. Rarely, the affected bone may weaken and break on its own.
  • Sometimes, bone tumors may result in an increase in blood calcium level, giving rise to nausea and mental confusion.
  • Unexplained, persistent swelling or inflammation of the leg, especially when there is no recent history of trauma, or other possible reason for the pain.
  • Some people may develop fever, chills, fatigue, and night sweats.
  • Unexplained and sudden weight loss is another symptom of bone cancer.
Diagnosis and Treatment

Typically, your doctor will ask for some imaging tests for diagnosing the condition. X-rays, CT Scan, and MRI scan may be required to be done. If these tests reveal a tumor, the next likely step is a biopsy to find out whether the tumor is benign or malignant. The doctor may also check the family history of the affected person. This is because, a family history of certain types of cancer puts a person at higher risk.

Bone cancer treatment involves different measures like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Surgery focuses on removing the tumor and parts of the normal bone from the surrounding area, so as to eliminate the risk of recurrence. After surgery, periodic tests are conducted to ensure that there are no cancerous cells left, and the bone is normal. In some cases, the whole bone is removed, and is replaced with a metallic implant. Amputation may be required, if the cancerous tumor is too large and the condition involves blood vessels and nerves. Chemotherapy uses medication to arrest the growth of cancer cells or to kill them. It can also be used prior to surgery, in order to reduce the size of the tumor. Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, each of these three methods do come with side effects - surgery may not remove the tumor completely; chemotherapy uses harsh and strong medication that can affect normal body processes; and radiation can cause fatigue, loss of appetite, and affect surrounding tissues.

Although the symptoms of bone cancer in the leg are not always easy to identify, it's important to pay attention to the warning signs. Primary bone cancer is rare and incidence of a bone tumor does not mean that it will be cancerous. So, it is highly important to consult your healthcare provider, as soon as you notice such symptoms, so as to rule out the possibility of medical conditions like bone cancer.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.