Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Cancer by the Numbers: Osteosarcoma

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Overview of osteosarcoma:

There are about 900 new cases of osteosarcoma diagnosed in the US each year. About 400 occur in children and adolescents younger than 20 years of age.

Osteosarcoma forms in the bones. It is most commonly diagnosed in those who are 15 to 25 years of age. It is also the most common type of bone cancer, and the sixth most common type of cancer in children.

Other types of cancer can eventually metastasize to the bone, however this disease originates in the bone and can spread elsewhere to other parts of the body.

Many cases of osteosarcoma, around 80 percent, begin in or around the knee area.

What are the risks of osteosarcoma?

The disease is most seen in boys and can arise from unpredictable errors in the DNA of growing bone cells during times of intense bone growth. Currently, there is no effective way to prevent this type of cancer but with proper treatment most kids diagnosed with osteosarcoma do recover.

What are the symptoms of osteosarcoma?

The most common symptoms experienced is pain or swelling in the leg or arm. Pain may be worse during exercise or at night. A lump may develop at the pain site after a few weeks. Another sign can be a broken arm or a leg because the cancer has weakened the bone and makes it vulnerable to a break or fracture.

How is osteosarcoma staged?

Generally speaking, doctors (especially those treating children) divide osteosarcomas into 2 "stages" - localized and metastatic - when deciding on the best course of treatment.

Localized osteosarcoma: A localized osteosarcoma affects only the bone it started in and the tissues next to the bone, such as muscle, tendon, etc.

Metastatic osteosarcoma: A metastatic osteosarcoma has spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs or to other bones not directly connected to the bone the tumor started in. Most often the spread is to the lungs (85%), but spread to other bones, the brain, or other internal organs may occur.

Patients with metastases found at the time of diagnosis have a worse prognosis, although some can be cured if the metastases can be removed by surgery. The cure rate for these patients is markedly improved if chemotherapy is also given.

What treatments are available for osteosarcoma?

Surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy to treat the body systematically in case any cancer cells are roaming around in the body. The surgical treatment could involve amputation of a limb or limb-salvage surgery.

Limb-salvage surgery allows the surgeon to save the arm or leg by only removing the area of bone with the cancer and then putting in a bone graft to fill the gap, saving the child from having to get their limb amputated.

What are the chances for a cure?

Survival rates are 60 percent to 80 percent to those patients who have not shown spread of the cancer to other areas of the body.

Resources Available:

American Cancer Society

Kids Health

Osteosarcoma Online

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