Osteosarcoma. It looks like a scary word. It even sounds frightening when pronounced, but with the proper diagnosis and treatment, most kids with this type of bone cancer do recover. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer. In children, it is the sixth most common type of cancer. Osteosarcoma begins in the bones and can spread to other bones or to the lungs.
This type of bone cancer typically develops from ostebolasts, which are the cells that make the growing bone. Teens who are experiencing a growth spurt are commonly affected, and boys are more likely than girls to have it. Most cases involve ostseosarcoma of the knee. Most often seen in teenage boys, evidence seems to suggest that teens who are taller than average are at greater risk for developing this cancer.
The most common symptoms of osteosarcoma or noticeable pain and swelling in the child’s leg or arm. The longer bones of the body are usually the ones affected, above or below the knee or near the shoulder. Pain can become intensified during exercise or at night. After several weeks of pain, swelling or a lump may present in that area that is affected. If a child is consistently awakened by pain in the middle of the night, this is something about which to be concerned.
When osteosarcoma develops in the leg, the child may have a slight limp. Sometimes, the child will incur a broken arm or leg in the developing stages of the disease, as a result of weakened bones due to the cancer. If your child experiences any of these symptoms, it is important to have him or her examined by a doctor right away.
In making a diagnosis of osteosarcoma, the doctor will perform a physical exam, inquire as to the child’s medical history, and conduct x-rays that may give attention to changes in bone structure. A bone biopsy will most likely be ordered so that a sample of the tumor can be examined in the lab. The type of surgeon who usually does this type of procedure is known as an orthopedic oncologist.
If a diagnosis of this type of bone cancer is made, a CT chest scan and a bone scan may be ordered by the doctor to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the scope of the original tumor. When treating children for osteosarcoma, chemotherapy and surgical intervention are used. The chemotherapy is aimed to kill the cancer cells and the surgery is performed to remove the cancer cells and/or tumors.
The surgical treatments used for osteosarcoma may involve amputation or limb-salvage procedures. With limb-salvage surgery, the bone and the muscle that have been affected by the cancer are removed, with the remaining gap filled by a bone graft or some type of metal prosthesis. However, if the cancer has spread to surrounding nerves and blood vessels, amputation may be the only viable option. Post-surgical treatment will include the use of chemotherapy.
Survival rates of 60% to 80% have been reported if the osteosarcoma has not spread beyond the original tumor. This survival rate also depends on the efficacy of the chemotherapy measures. If the disease has spread, these treatment methodologies might not be as effective.
For those children whose osteosarcoma cannot be surgically removed, tests are now being conducted to determine the effectiveness of chemotherapy and high-dose radiation. The important thing to remember is to seek early medical intervention if you have any concerns over the health and well-being of your child.
(Information for this article was found at http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/cancer/cancer_osteosarcoma.html)