Osteosarcoma – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment
What is osteosarcoma?
Osteosarcoma is a cancerous tumor in a bone. This tumor starts in bone cells that become new bone tissue. Osteosarcoma commonly forms in the ends of the long bones of the body, such as bones of the arms and legs. In children and teenagers, this tumor often forms in the bones near the knee. Osteosarcoma occurs most commonly in large bones in the area of bone with the fastest growth rate. However, it can occur in any bone.
Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer in children. Average age at diagnosis is 15 years. Boys and girls are just as likely to develop this tumor until the late teens when it occurs more often in boys. Osteosarcoma is also common in people over age 60.
What causes osteosarcoma?
What causes osteosarcoma is not known. Genetics play a role in some cases. One gene has been associated with increased risk for osteosarcoma. The same gene is also linked with familial retinoblastoma, which is a type of cancer that occurs in children.
Osteosarcoma tends to occur in the following bones:
- Upper arm (near the shoulder)
- Thigh (near the knee)
- Shin (near the knee)
What are the symptoms of osteosarcoma?
The first symptom of osteosarcoma is bone pain near a joint. One or more of the following other symptoms may occur depending on the location of the tumor:
- Bone fracture
- Limitation of motion
- Pain when lifting
- Tenderness, swelling, or redness at the site of the tumor
How is osteosarcoma diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and review your medical history and symptoms. The doctor may also order the following tests:
- Blood tests
- Bone scan to see if cancer has spread to other bones
- CT scan of the chest to see if cancer has spread to the lungs
- MRI scan
- PET scan
- Biopsy (at time of surgery for diagnosis)
How is osteosarcoma treated?
Treatment usually starts after a biopsy of the tumor is done.
Usually, osteosarcoma is treated with chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. It may also kill any cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery is done after chemotherapy to remove any remaining tumor. In most cases, surgery can remove the tumor while saving the affected limb. This is called limb-sparing surgery.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.