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Signs and symptoms of bone cancer

Bone cancer develops when abnormal tissue or a tumour begins to form in a bone due to anomalous and uncontrolled cell reproduction. A tumour can be benign or malignant depending on certain factors. Benign tumours are localised while the malignant cells may spread to distant body organs, leading to their systematic malfunction and failure. However, cancer originating from bones is not a common sight, accounting for just 1 percent of all cancers. In fact, the cases of benign bone tumours outnumber cancerous bone tumours.

Signs and symptoms of bone cancer are difficult to detect because they coincide with many non-cancerous, general conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis or injury. The signs often differ from individual to individual, depending on the type and location of the tumour. Here are some common and rare signs and symptoms of bone malignancies that should be presented early. In doing so, the chances of symptom relief and safe and complete recovery increase manifolds.

1. Pain

Mild to severe pain in the arms and legs is the first and most common sign of bone cancer. The pain often passes off as an after effect of strenuous physical activity or injury. However, if this symptom is persistent for three months or more, bone cancer screening is recommended.

2. Swelling

Swelling around the painful area for weeks is a generic clinical indication for bone malignancy. The patient may also experience a lump and tenderness in the location of pain. The thigh, shin and upper arm are considered to be the most common sites for tumours to germinate.

3. Pathological Fractures

Anyone with bone tumour is susceptible to pathological fractures occurring in the bones that are weakened due to the presence of cancer cells. The bones become fragile and can achieve fracture even in wake of a minor accident or fall. It’s not always your bad luck to have recurring fractures, as bone malignancies can be the reason at times.

4. Restricted movement

When the tumour develops in close proximity to the joint, the movement of the joint is restricted. With the growth of the tumour, the patient may find it difficult to move the whole limb. In case the leg bone is affected, a limp may surface while an infected spine often leads to lack of sensation and tingling in legs. The tumour protrudes into nearby nerves, hampering their function and causing numbness.

5. Systemic Symptoms

There is set of symptoms not associated directly with the bone. In medical terminology, they are known as Systemic Symptoms. These are generic symptoms like weight loss, fatigue, etc. If cancer spreads to other organs like lungs, the person may experience trouble in breathing.

The prominent Systemic Symptoms may include, but not limited to:

  • Re-occurring fever
  • Fatigue, drowsiness and no inclination for any physical activity
  • Unintentional and excessive weight loss
  • Anaemia

Causes of Bone Cancer

Bone malignancies start when cells lose their ability to self destruct. The cells then multiply abnormally leading to a cell build up, which is known as tumour. If the tumour is malignant, it develops in four stages, each characterized by its growth and spread. Why cells lose their innate ability to die down naturally is yet to be determined but some risk factors are known, such as:

Inherited genetic syndromes:

Bone malignancies run in families, passing from a generation to the next. Per scientific studies, parents with certain genetic syndromes like Li-Fraumeni and retinoblastoma are likely to pass them to their offspring, making them vulnerable to bone cancers. So, if any of your parents have bone cancer, get yourself screened for bone cancer treatment before the malignancy develops and gains criticality.

Paget’s disease of bone:

Human body is capable of replacing old bone tissues with new ones. However, due to certain factors, the body may lose this ability, and when it does, the condition is called Paget’s bone disease. The condition is characterised by fragile bones in the skull, spine, pelvis and legs. Worst still, the patient is prone to bone malignancies, especially in the later stage of the lifecycle.

Radiation therapy:

Individuals with prolonged exposure to radiations are more likely to develop bone cancers. In fact, cancer patients put under radiation therapy are ideal candidates for bone cancer.

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