What Are the Symptoms of Bone Cancer?
My Sister as a Teenager
When Bone Cancer Struck My Sister
Cancer of the bones is not very common. The American Cancer Society estimates that only about 2,300 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year. However, when a loved one receives this diagnosis, the low statistics don't mean much.
My big sister, Kim, was the light of my life—my best friend. We affectionately called each other "Sister." In 2006, we discovered she had bone cancer. It came as a big shock to all of us, but looking back, there were some warning signs. They just weren't anything we thought of as significant at the time.
The symptoms of bone cancer often go undetected. I hope that by reading this article you will become more informed about the symptoms and treatments for this cancer.
Common Questions About Bone Cancer Answered
Common Symptoms of Bone Cancer
- Bone breakage with little to no trauma
- Weight Loss
Common Bone Cancer Symptoms
One of the main symptoms of bone cancer is pain and swelling. Patients with bone cancer can experience pain at the affected area. However, some patients never experience any bone pain.
Sister complained of lower back pain for months. She thought it was just because she had a bad back. Going to a chiropractor brought her no relief. She also experienced swelling in her leg. When we discovered she had cancer, she had it in her femur and hip bone. The pain in her back was no doubt caused by the cancer in her hip, and the swelling in her leg was from the tumor that was there.
Fatigue can be another symptom of bone cancer. It can be caused by the bone cancer itself, or it can mean that it has spread elsewhere in the body.
Sister was often tired. She worked two jobs, and she thought that maybe she was just tired from that. But even if she didn't do very much, she still complained of feeling tired and worn down.
Bone fracture or breakage is usually the way patients find out they have bone cancer because the other symptoms can be caused by things that can be attributed to other health issues. Tumors attach themselves to the bone and weaken it, allowing even slight trauma to cause a fracture or break.
This is how Sister found out she had cancer. She was simply walking at work when she heard and felt a pop in her leg. Her femur had broken without any trauma; she was just going about her day. When she was taken to the ER and x-rays were taken, it was discovered she had bone tumors. She had to have surgery to put in hardware to repair her leg, and the tumors were removed.
Other symptoms, such as fever, chills, night sweats, or weight loss are possible, but they are very uncommon. When these symptoms present themselves, it usually means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Consult Your Doctor
Bone cancer has few symptoms. However, the symptoms that do arise are often the result of something else, entirely. If you have any of these symptoms and they do not go away, be sure to visit your doctor to rule out other health problems.
Women's Health Online Describes The Symptons of Bone Cancer
Bone Cancer Treatment
The type of treatment you receive depends on the specific type of bone cancer, as well as your age and overall health condition.
The most common treatments are:
In surgery, the doctor will remove the bone and any diseased tissue that is nearby. They will also attach hardware to your bones if they are broken or very weak. Advances in medicine have made it very rare that amputation (if cancer is in the arm or leg) is needed.
Following surgery, depending on your type of bone cancer, you may be given a course of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be in the form of pills or given intravenously.
Sister was given both, often at the same time. At first, she was given her chemotherapy through an IV. Chemo is very hard on your body, even the veins that the drugs are given through. After a few months, she had a port placed in her chest where the chemo drugs could go straight in her system. The side effects she experienced from the chemo were nausea and fatigue. To her delight, she did not lose her hair, although I think she was the exception to the rule.
Radiation therapy is really very strong x-rays that are directed at the cancer site in order to kill the cancer. Radiation is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy.
Sister also received radiation. It did not cause her pain during her sessions, but it did make her skin sore afterwards. It looked as if she had a sunburn in the area they treated.
Another treatment that doctors may prescribe is cryosurgery. Basically, your doctor will use liquid nitrogen in an attempt to kill the cancer cells. Your doctor may do cryosurgery instead of traditional surgery depending on the type of cancer you have.
Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer) Magnified 400x
When you or a loved one is diagnosed with bone cancer, knowing the survival statistics can be a comfort. Doctors often find it difficult, though, to put a precise number on the survival rate. Beating bone cancer depends on many factors, including as the type of bone cancer you have, how soon you received treatment, and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Instead of dwelling on statistics, it is far better to follow your doctor's plan of treatment, have a positive outlook, take care of yourself emotionally and physically, and surround yourself with your friends and loved ones.
By following your doctor's plan of treatment, you will be doing everything medically that you can to beat the cancer. When you keep your outlook positive and take care of yourself, you create a positive environment for yourself. It is much easier to thrive. Use your friends and family as your support system, and you can turn your focus toward getting better.
Is Bone Cancer Always Fatal?
Tips For Loved Ones and Friends
Always try to be positive
Talk about your problems or anything negative
Help with housework, shopping, cooking
Assume they don't want something done, even if they say no. They may just be trying to be polite
Offer to take them out to eat, shopping, or for a drive if they feel up to going
Let your loved one stay at home all the time. It can be depressing
Take their lead. If they want to talk about the cancer, be a good listener
Constantly talk about the cancer and their medical condition
How To Help Your Loved One With Bone Cancer
When Sister was first diagnosed with bone cancer, it came as a shock. Because the cancer was in her hip and femur, she was unable to walk without a walker or a wheelchair. Anytime I talked with her, I always tried to be positive and not talk about negative things. She was already dealing with enough.
My mother and I helped her as much as we could with things like cooking, cleaning, and shopping. She protested and said we didn't need to do anything—but she still appreciated that we did it for her. She just didn't want to a bother.
I always encouraged her, if she felt up to it, to go out with me to eat, go shopping, or just take a drive. When you're sick and the inside of the house or hospital is all you see, it's nice to get out and do something fun for a change.
If Sister wanted to talk about her cancer, I let her. I didn't want to push her if she didn't want to talk about it.
Your loved one is depending on you, other family members, and friends to help them through this difficult time. Be there for them emotionally and physically. They will appreciate it more than you know.