Bone cancer is a malignant (cancerous) tumor of the bone that destroys normal bone tissue. Not all bone tumors are malignant. In fact, benign (noncancerous) bone tumors are more common than malignant ones.
Both malignant and benign bone tumors may grow and compress healthy bone tissue, but benign tumors do not spread, do not destroy bone tissue, and are rarely a threat to life.
Malignant tumors that begin in bone tissue are called primary bone cancer. Cancer that metastasizes (spreads) to the bones from other parts of the body, such as the breast, lung, or prostate, is called metastatic cancer and is named for the organ or tissue in which it began. Primary bone cancer is far less common than cancer that spreads to the bones.
Cancer can begin in any type of bone tissue. Bones are made up of osteoid (hard or compact), cartilaginous (tough, flexible), and fibrous (threadlike) tissue, as well as elements of bone marrow (soft, spongy tissue in the center of most bones).
Common types of primary bone cancer include the following:
• Osteosarcoma, which arises from osteoid tissue in the bone. This tumor occurs most often in the knee and upper arm.
• Chondrosarcoma, which begins in cartilaginous tissue. Cartilage pads the ends of bones and lines the joints. Chondrosarcoma occurs most often in the pelvis, upper leg, and shoulder. Sometimes a chondrosarcoma contains cancerous bone cells. In that case, doctors classify the tumor as an osteosarcoma.
• The Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors (ESFTs), which usually occur in bone but may also arise in soft tissue (muscle, fat, fibrous tissue, blood vessels, or other supporting tissue). Scientists think that ESFTs arise from elements of primitive nerve tissue in the bone or soft tissue. ESFTs occur most commonly along the backbone and pelvis and in the legs and arms.
Other types of cancer that arise in soft tissue are called soft tissue sarcomas.
Causes & Symptoms of Bone Cancer
It's not clear what causes most bone cancers. Doctors know bone cancer begins as an error in a cell's DNA. The error tells the cell to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. These cells go on living, rather than dying at a set time.
The accumulating mutated cells form a mass (tumor) that can invade nearby structures or spread to other areas of the body.
Signs and symptoms of bone cancer include:
• Bone pain
• Swelling and tenderness near the affected area
• Broken bone
• Unintended weight loss
There are certain factors associated with an increased risk of bone cancer, including:
• Inherited genetic syndromes. Certain rare genetic syndromes passed through families increase the risk of bone cancer, including Li-Fraumeni syndrome and hereditary retinoblastoma.
• Paget's disease of bone. Most commonly occurring in older adults, Paget's disease of bone can increase the risk of bone cancer developing later.
• Radiation therapy for cancer. Exposure to large doses of radiation, such as those given during radiation therapy for cancer, increases the risk of bone cancer in the future.
Who Gets Bone Cancer
Primary cancers of bones account for less than 0.2% of all cancers.
In adults, more than 40 percent of primary bone cancers are chondrosarcomas. This is followed by osteosarcomas (28 percent), chordomas (10%), Ewing tumors (8 percent), and malignant fibrous histiocytoma/fibrosarcomas (4 percent). The remainder of cases are several rare types of bone cancers.
In children and teenagers (those younger than 20 years), osteosarcoma (56%) and Ewing tumors (34%) are much more common than chondrosarcoma (6%).
Chondrosarcomas develop most often in adults, with an average age at diagnosis of 51. Less than 5% of cases occur in patients younger than 20.
Chordomas are also more common in adults. Less than 5% of cases occur in patients younger than 20.
Both osteosarcomas and Ewing tumors occur most often in children and teens.
Prognosis if You Have Bone Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database:
• For all cases of bone cancer combined (in both adults and children), the 5-year relative survival is about 70 percent.
• For osteosarcomas and Ewing sarcomas that are still in the area where they started (localized), the 5-year survival rate is about 60 to 80 percent.
• If cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is about 15 to 30 percent. But if it has spread only to the lungs, the 5-year survival rate is slightly better.
• For chondrosarcomas, the 5-year survival rate is about 80 percent.
Depending on the stage of cancer and other factors, conventional treatment options include:
• Targeted therapy
Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK
How to Prevent Bone Cancer
Screening tests are important ways to find cancer if you are at risk but do not have symptoms. Unfortunately, no standardized screening tests have been shown to improve bone cancer outcomes.
Changes in lifestyle can help prevent many types of cancer. However, no known lifestyle changes can prevent bone cancers.
Immune System Health
A healthy immune system remains your body's best defense. Not only is a weak immune system a major reason patients have cancer — and cancer itself can further weaken the immune system.
Beta glucans may help regulate the immune system, making it more efficient. In addition, beta glucans stimulate white blood cells (lymphocytes) that bind to tumors or viruses and release chemicals to destroy it.
Beta Glucan has been approved in Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Taiwan as an immunoadjuvant therapy for cancer. In fact, helping with cancer is just the beginning with Beta Glucan. There are many studies showing the product can protect against infections, lower your cholesterol, lower blood sugar, reduce stress, increase your antibody production, heal wounds, help radiation burns, overcome mercury-induced immunosuppression (like Thimerosal, used as a preservative in vaccines), help with diabetes, and even naturally prevent metastasisThe spread of cancer cells from the place where they first formed to another part of the body. In metastasis, cancer cells break away from the original (primary) tumor, travel through the blood or lymph system, and form a new tumor in other organs or tissues of the body. The new, metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are breast cancer cells, not lung cancer cells. (or the spreading of your cancer).
Harvard Medical School suggests following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward keeping your immune system strong and healthy:
- Don't smoke.
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fatA type of fat with certain chemical properties that is usually solid at room temperature. Most saturated fats come from animal food products, but some plant oils, such as palm and coconut oil, also contain high levels. Eating saturated fat increases the level of cholesterol in the blood and the risk of heart disease..
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Control your blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.
More Information: Building the Immune System
Your diet plays a role in a healthy immune system. The top vitamins your immune system needs to perform include:
• Vitamin C — helps to repair and regenerate tissues and aids in the absorption of iron
• Vitamin E — a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection
• Vitamin B6 — supports adrenal function and is necessary for key metabolic processes
• Vitamin A — aids immune function and helps provide a barrier against infections
• Vitamin D — modulates cell growth, promotes neuromuscular and immune function, and reduces inflammation
• Folate — key in development of red blood cells (a lack of Folate can make the body susceptible to cancer)
• Iron — helps your body carry oxygen to cells
• Selenium — slows the body's overactive responses to certain aggressive forms of cancer
• Zinc — slows the immune response and control inflammation in your body