Osteosarcoma

Understanding Osteosarcoma: Identifying Signs, Symptoms, and Progress in Treatment

Understanding Osteosarcoma: Identifying Signs, Symptoms, and Progress in Treatment

Osteosarcoma, a form of cancer originating in bone-forming cells, is frequently observed among teenagers and young adults, although it can occur across different age groups. While any bone can be affected, it predominantly manifests in the long bones of the legs and occasionally in the arms. In rare cases, it may develop in soft tissue outside the bone. Medical advancements have significantly enhanced the prognosis of osteosarcoma. However, individuals may experience delayed effects from the potent treatments utilized to combat the cancer, necessitating lifelong monitoring for potential side effects post-treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Osteosarcoma:

The onset of osteosarcoma symptoms typically involves bone-related issues, often affecting the long bones of the legs or arms. Common symptoms include persistent bone or joint pain, which may initially resemble growth pains, and unexplained bone fractures accompanied by pain. Swelling near a bone can also be indicative of osteosarcoma. 

When to see a doctor:

Consulting a healthcare professional is advisable if persistent symptoms raise concerns, although these symptoms can mimic those of other conditions like sports injuries, necessitating thorough evaluation.

Causes of Osteosarcoma:

The causes of osteosarcoma are not fully understood.

Osteosarcoma develops when changes arise in the DNA of bone cells. Within a cell, DNA, which contains crucial instructions known as genes, dictates its behavior. In healthy cells, these genes regulate the pace of growth and division, as well as the timing of cell death.

However, in cancerous cells, these DNA alterations lead to different instructions. Instead of following the usual growth and death signals, cancer cells multiply rapidly and persist even when they should naturally die. This excessive cell growth results in the formation of a mass known as a tumor. As the tumor grows, it can infiltrate and damage healthy body tissues. Over time, cancer cells can break away from the original tumor and spread to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis.

Risk Factors:

While most cases of osteosarcoma occur without identifiable risk factors, certain genetic conditions and bone disorders can elevate the risk. These include hereditary syndromes like retinoblastoma, Bloom syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, and Werner syndrome, as well as bone conditions such as Paget’s disease and fibrous dysplasia. Additionally, prior exposure to radiation therapy or chemotherapy may increase susceptibility to osteosarcoma. Unfortunately, there are no preventive measures for the condition.

Complications:

Complications of osteosarcoma and its treatment are as follows.

1. Cancer spreading, also known as metastasizing

Osteosarcoma can spread from where it started to other parts of the body. This makes treatment and recovery more difficult. Usually, osteosarcoma spreads to the lungs or to another bone.

2. Adjusting after surgery to remove an arm or leg

Surgeons try to remove the cancer while keeping the arm or leg intact, but sometimes they have to remove part of the limb to get rid of all the cancer. 

Mastering the use of an artificial limb, known as a prosthesis, requires dedication, practice, and patience. There are experts who can help with this.

3. Long-term side effects of treatment

The strong treatments used to control osteosarcoma can cause significant side effects, both in the short term and long term. Your healthcare team can help you or your child deal with the side effects that occur during treatment. They can also provide you with a list of side effects to be aware of in the years after treatment.


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