5 Common Forms of Bone Cancer

May 7th 2016

While the cancers listed are the most common types of bone cancer, malignant bone tumors are quite rare overall; they are also often slow-growing, so they can be managed or treated if diagnosed promptly. If you have any concerns about the possibility of having a bone cancer, consult a medical practitioner for further advice and guidance.

Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcomas can grow anywhere in the skeleton, but the most common sites are the lower thigh, the shinbone and the upper arm. They produce a bony substance called osteoid as they grow, which can make them easier to detect as they grow in mass. Osteoid is also easier to detect in scans than some forms of cancerous growths.

Ewing's Sarcoma

Named after the doctor who first described it, Ewing's sarcoma is most common in adolescents and usually starts in the hip, thigh or shin bones. Ewing's tumors also manifest in soft tissues from time to time. They are sometimes believed to be formed by fragments of nerve tissue within the bones or soft tissues. Diagnosis is confirmed by sampling, as this type of sarcoma displays DNA mutations and marker proteins not found in other cancer types.

Chondrosarcoma

This type of bone cancer is usually found in adults over 40 years of age, but it is relatively rare in any case. It is actually a cancer of the cartilaginous cells, so it can occur in any part of the body since cartilage can grow inside bones or on their surface. The most common sites are the hips, thigh bones, upper arms, shoulder blades and ribs, but this type of tumor is relatively slow-growing and therefore hard to spot.

Spindle Cell Sarcoma

Spindle cell sarcoma comes in several varieties, but the most common, as long as it is discovered early, is undifferentiated sarcoma. This means that the cells are unspecialized because they are immature and there is no way to tell which type of normal bone cells they sprang from. Spindle cell sarcomas with more well-developed cells are categorized as histiocytomas, fibrosarcomas or leiomyosarcomas, depending on the microscopic appearance of the cells, and these are all rare, particularly leiomyosarcomas.

Chordoma

Most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60, chordomas are slow-growing tumors. They can only develop in individuals whose original spinal cord tissue did not fully mature after the age of six months; small fragments of this infantile notochord remaining within the spine after calcification is not an uncommon situation, but it can lead to cancerous growths in a few individuals. Chordomas rarely spread, but they form in the skull and spine on most occasions, so they are distressing and hard to treat.

Conclusion

There are several different types of primary bone cancer, although non-malignant bone tumors are even more common. Many cancers found in the bones are actually secondary cancers from a malignancy that started elsewhere in the body. Primary bone cancers are relatively rare and may be difficult to spot as they often grow quite slowly.

Sources

CancerResearchUK.org "Types of bone cancer" http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/bone-cancer/about/types-of-bone-cancer
Cancer.gov "Bone cancer" http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/bone/bone-fact-sheet
WebMD.com "Bone tumors" http://www.webmd.com/cancer/bone-tumors
NHS.uk "Bone cancer (sarcoma)" http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cancer-of-the-bone/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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