Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma

What is osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that usually develops in the osteoblast cells that form bone. It occurs most often in children, adolescents, and young adults. Approximately 800 new cases of osteosarcoma are reported each year in the U.S. Of these cases, 400 are in children and teens. It occurs slightly more often in males than in females.

Osteosarcoma most commonly occurs in the long bones around the knee. Other sites for osteosarcoma include the upper leg, or thighbone, the lower leg, upper arm bone, or any bone in the body, including those in the pelvis, shoulder, and skull.

Osteosarcoma may metastasize, or spread, into nearby tissues, such as tendons or muscles. It may also metastasize through the bloodstream to other organs or bones in the body.

What causes osteosarcoma?

The exact cause of osteosarcoma is not known, but it is believed to be due to DNA mutations--either inherited or acquired after birth. Other theories and associations have been suggested as risk factors.

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. Different diseases have different risk factors.

Although these factors can increase a person's risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop the disease, while others develop the disease and have no known risk factors.

But, knowing your risk factors to any disease can help to guide you into the appropriate actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.

What are the risk factors for osteosarcoma?

Suggested risk factors for osteosarcoma include the following:

What are the symptoms of osteosarcoma?

The following are the most common symptoms for osteosarcoma. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of osteosarcoma may resemble other medical conditions, such as Ewing sarcoma. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is osteosarcoma diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for osteosarcoma may include the following:

Treatment for osteosarcoma

Specific treatment for osteosarcoma will be determined by your doctor based on:

Treatment may include:

Many patients, particularly those with higher grade tumors, will receive a combination of treatments. 

Long-term outlook for an individual with osteosarcoma

Prognosis for osteosarcoma greatly depends on:

A person who was treated for bone cancer as a child or adolescent may develop 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 person to person. Every individual is unique and treatment and prognosis is structured around your needs. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best prognosis. Continuous follow-up care is essential for a person diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, as well as second malignancies, can occur in survivors. New methods are continually being discovered to improve treatment and decrease side effects.

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Online Resources of Bone Disorders

 

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