Diagnosis of cancer is shocking for every affected person and the family members. Cancer can affect any person at any age. It can originate in any part of the body. The original cancer tumor is referred to as 'primary tumor'. When cancer cells from primary tumor spread to other organs and form a new tumor at a new site, it is referred to as 'secondary cancer' or metastasis. Primary bone cancer is the cancer which originates in the bones while cancer originated in some other organ and then spread into the bones is called 'secondary bone cancer' or 'metastatic bone cancer'. Modern technology and advanced treatments have helped raise the survival rate of secondary bone cancer. Prompt and correct treatment can increase the life expectancy of the people affected by bone cancer.
Secondary Bone Cancer
Most advanced stage cancers invade bones. However, the most common cancer which spreads into bones are breast, prostate, lung, kidney, thyroid cancers, and multiple myeloma. Amongst these, breast, prostate, and lung cancers are the most common cancers which spread into the bones. Bone cancer symptoms in such cases, vary from one affected person to another according to the stage and severity of the cancer, overall health of the affected person, at what stage the cancer was detected, treatment, etc. Sometimes, metastatic bone cancer is found without the diagnosis of the primary cancer. If doctors are not able to find the primary cancer, then it is called 'unknown primary tumor'. Mostly, only one area in a bone gets affected due to metastasis but development of a number of secondary tumors in various bones is also possible.
The symptoms include:
- Pain in the affected area, unusual bone pain
- Swelling and tenderness in the affected area
- Bone fractures without any reason (which indicate weakened bones)
- Hypercalcaemia or high blood calcium level (as more calcium is released into the blood)
- Fatigue, nausea, confusion, increased thirst, stomach upset, and constipation
- Muscle pain and weak muscles
- Metastasis in the lower part of the spine may lead to bowel and bladder problems.
- If the spinal cord is affected by metastasis, then compression of the spinal cord (pressure on the nerves) can lead to tingling sensation and numbness in the limbs.
- Affected bone marrow cannot produce sufficient number of blood cells. Low red blood cell count, low white blood cell count, and low platelet count can lead to extreme tiredness, anemia, frequent infections, abnormal bleeding, etc.
Blood tests, X-rays, CT or MRI or PET scan, biopsy, etc., help diagnose metastatic bone cancer. The prognosis varies from one affected person to another as the treatment depends upon the nature of the primary cancer, its response to the treatment, which bone is affected, severity of the damage, other symptoms, etc. The treatment includes the use of bisphosphonates, hormone therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, pain management with the help of physiotherapy, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, etc. Bone cancer survival rate therefore depends upon all the above mentioned factors.
Once the cancer invades the bones, the prognosis is generally very poor. However, one should not lose hope. Latest research and treatments help make life better for the affected person. Advanced secondary bone cancer treatment generally includes palliative treatment which is focused on reducing the symptoms. Since, it is difficult to remove cancer in the advanced stage, the survival rate is very low. Those who receive proper treatment and therapy (if metastasis in bone is detected early) may survive for 2-3 years. The average survival rate (after detecting cancer in bones) is about 24 to 36 months (depending upon various factors). The life expectancy of the affected person depends mainly on his/her overall health (physical and mental), the type of primary cancer, stage of the disease, and on how aggressive the cancerous cells are. Emotional support from friends and family members plays an important role in bone cancer life expectancy.
Every person affected by this condition is unique. Secondary bone cancer survival rate may vary from one affected person to another. Statistical figures do not help predict the life expectancy of an individual. The figures are derived by studying certain groups of people and statistics are just for reference for the common man.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.