Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer among children, adolescents, and young adults.
The disease usually occurs in the long bones, such as the arms (humerus), legs (femur and/or tibia), and pelvis. It rarely occurs in the jaw and fingers. It most often occurs at the ends of bones near growth plates, especially around the knees.
Osteosarcoma cancer cells can also spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body. Most commonly, these cells spread to the lungs. However, bones, kidneys, the adrenal gland, the brain, and the heart can also be sites of metastasis.
The exact cause of osteosarcoma is not known, but genetics may play an important role. Children and adults with other hereditary abnormalities, including retinoblastoma, Rothmund-Thompson syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, multiple hereditary osteochondromas and Paget's disease, have an increased risk for developing osteosarcoma.
This form of cancer has also been linked to exposure to ionizing irradiation associated with radiation therapy for other types of cancer (for example, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin disease).
The following are the most common symptoms of osteosarcoma. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, the following:
The symptoms may have occurred over a short period of time or may have been present for six months or more. Often, an injury brings a child into a medical facility, where an X-ray may indicate suspicious bone lesions. The injury itself, however, doesn't cause osteosarcoma.
The symptoms of osteosarcoma may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination of your child, diagnostic procedures for osteosarcoma may include:
Specific treatment for osteosarcoma will be determined by your child's doctor based on:
Treatment may include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following:
Prognosis for osteosarcoma greatly depends on:
A person who was treated for bone cancer as a child or adolescent may develop side effects months or years after treatment ends. These effects are called late effects. The kind of late effects one develops depends on the location of the tumor and the way it was treated.
Some types of treatment may later affect fertility. If this side effect is permanent, it will cause infertility, or the inability to have children. Both men and women can be affected.
As with any cancer, prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from child to child. Every child is unique, and treatment and prognosis are structured around the child's needs. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best prognosis. Continuous follow-up care is essential for a child diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, as well as second malignancies, can occur in survivors of osteosarcoma.
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