Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body that develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, and, if it has spread, treatment may be more about managing the disease than curing it. To improve outcomes, it is therefore vital to recognise the warning signs and seek the appropriate treatment.
While some cancer symptoms may be relatively mild in their severity and are easily confused with less serious conditions, other symptoms can be more distinctive.
For example, if you experience pain that usually begins with a feeling of tenderness in a particular bone, it may signal bone cancer.
According to the NHS, this pain gradually progresses to a persistent ache or an ache that comes and goes, which continues at night and when resting.
What is bone cancer?
According to Cancer Research UK, primary bone cancer is a rare type of cancer that starts in the cells of the bones.
How is bone cancer treated?
Treatment for bone cancer depends on the type of bone cancer you have and how far it has spread, explains the NHS.
Most people have a combination of:
- Surgery to remove the section of cancerous bone – it’s often possible to reconstruct or replace the bone that’s been removed, but amputation is sometimes necessary
- Chemotherapy – treatment with powerful cancer-killing medication
- Radiotherapy – where radiation is used to destroy cancerous cells
Am I at risk?
It is not known what causes most bone cancers but there are some factors that may increase your risk of developing it.
According to Cancer Research UK, a common misconception is that a knock or injury to a bone can cause bone cancer but this claim is not supported by research.
As the charity explains, it’s more likely that an injury causes swelling, which when it’s investigated, shows up a cancer that is already there.
“Or a bone affected by cancer may be weakened and so is more likely to become damaged in an accident. Doctors may then spot the tumour when they are investigating your accident,” adds the charity.
As opposed to lifestyle factors, pre-existing and genetic conditions are the main risk factors associated with the condition.
According to the NHS, some non-cancerous (benign) conditions affecting the bones may increase your chances of developing bone cancer, although the risk is still small.
“In particular, a condition called Paget’s disease of the bone can increase the risk of bone cancer in people over 50-60 years of age,” explains the health body.
Rarer conditions that cause tumours to grow in your bones, such as Ollier’s disease, can also increase your risk of bone cancer, notes the health site.
In terms of genetic factors, a condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome, which runs in families, may influence your risk.
Also, a type of eye cancer caused by faulty genes called hereditary retinoblastoma may also heighten your risk of developing the disease.