Bone Cancer/Sarcoma is a type of cancer arising from mesenchymal cells in the body. Various tissues may give rise to sarcoma like muscle, bone, cartilage, fat, vessels, nerve, bone marrow etc. The cancer process starts due to uncontrolled proliferation of cells which then grow very large and spread to different parts of the body thus effecting function and endangering life. Sarcoma is a life threatening disease affecting mainly children and adolescents. Adults as well are affected. Amputation has been the main treatment option offered to patients with Sarcoma. With newer limb sparing surgeries and adjuvant treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy it is possible to save the limbs and cure their lives.
Grades of Sarcoma
Based on the speed with which these cancer cells grow, sarcomas are divided into low, intermediate or high grade. Grading is important to predict the prognosis and to plan treatment. Low grade tumor may need surgical intervention. Intermediate and high grade tumors have a high chance of spreading to other parts of the body through blood circulation and less likely through lymphatic system. These sarcomas have a tendency to spread to Lungs, bones and lymph nodes and less likely to other parts of the body. This kind of spread is called as Metastasis or Secondaries. Intermediate and high grade tumors may need surgery, Chemotherapy or radiation. Some tumors need a combination of treatment modalities.
Metastasis or Secondaries
Cancer may spread through blood circulation to lungs, bones etc . The cancer cells may also spread through lymphatic system to the local or distant lymph nodes.
Sarcoma is divided into various types based on the tissue of origin.
Osteosacoma usually arise from the bones. Chondrosarcomas arise from the cartilage cells, Ewings sarcoma arise from the hematopoietic system of bone, synovial sarcoma arises for the soft tissues around the joints.
How is Sarcoma Diagnosed?
Sarcomas can affect people of any age. They usually present with pain which gradually increases in intensity. Pain may be present even during rest. This is an important symptom. Pain may be temporarily relived by taking medication. But it may come back again after the analgesic effect comes down.
A swelling may arise in the affected area which gradually increases in size. The rate of growth depends on the grade of the tumor. Usually bone sarcomas are found around the knee, hip, thigh, shoulder etc, other parts of the body may also be affected.
Sarcoma when they affect the spine may present with sudden onset of weakness in the legs or hand. Paraplegia may the mode of presentation. Inability to pass urine and stool may be the symptom.
Pelvic tumors may present late as the swelling may not be visible. These tumors usually present at a stage when the size is big. Sacral tumors may present in the form of constipation and weakness due to pressure of the tumor mass on the nerves.
Weight loss and loss of appetite are late symptoms of cancer. At this stage generally the tumor would have spread to different parts of the body and at this stage cure may not be possible.
People with any of these symptoms should immediately seek medical attention. Consulting an oncologist at an early stage would help in identifying these tumors at an early stage and increase the chance of cure. The doctor would thoroughly examine the patient and conduct appropriate investigation to diagnose the condition.