Medical Dictionary of Bone Cancer

C A N C E R  I N F O R M A T I O N

Bone Cancer

Secondary bone cancer is caused by a spread of cancer to the bone from the other organs of the body, including the kidneys, prostate, breast, lungs, pancreas and stomach.

Persistent, bone pain, localised tenderness and swelling can be early signs of bone cancer. Later there may be some unexplained fractures over the site of the cancer especially in the legs or limited movement in adjacent joints. X-rays of the particular bones involved will generally establish the presence of cancer. Bone scans may be necessary.

An initial investigation may have to be made by examining in the pathology laboratory a minute piece of the diseased tissue removed at operation. This is called a biopsy and precedes any major surgery on the bone cancer. Treatment consists of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Treatment of cancer at the secondary bone site usually involves either chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormonal therapy, or a combination of these three. Bone surgery as a means of strengthening bones, splinting and correcting alignment might be necessary. This form of surgery can help the patient to move about more easily. Pain and general discomfort can also be relieved.

Primary cancer is much less common. It is a disease of young people. It often starts as a painful swollen area in on of the long bones of the leg or arm. If diagnosed early this is a cancer with a very good outlook - but the treatment is radical - extensive surgery often leading to amputation is followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

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