Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that mostly affects those in their teenage years. It is the most common cancerous bone tumor in teens and young people with the average age of diagnosis being fifteen years of age. This cancer rarely affects adults. This cancer can affect any bone, but most commonly affect the larger bones. This cancer typically develops from the cells responsible for growing bone, known as osteoblasts. Teens experiencing a growth spurt are at the highest risk. The development of osteosarcoma in teens is a topic being highly researched by scientists and doctors because it is the sixth most common cancer among children and teens.
Why Does it Affect Teens in Particular?
Overactive bone cells are thought to possibly encourage this cancer. As teens are growing, their bone cells are in overdrive to help their bones develop and grow. This is why this cancer is most prevalent in this age group. Teens are experiencing growth spurts, particularly boys, and this cancer most often originates from the cells that create growing bone. Those who are taller than average, tend to develop this bone cancer more.
There are some rare cancer syndromes that also put teens at a higher risk for the development of osteosarcoma in teens. Such syndromes include retinoblastoma, and a type of inherited genetic mutation known as Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Prior or current exposure to radiation treatments also increases a patient’s risk.
Signs and Symptoms
This cancer affects the bones, so many of the symptoms are related to the bones. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Bone pain
- Limping if the tumor is located within the leg
- Pain when lifting if the tumor is located within the arm
- Bone fracture may occur after what was thought of as a routine movement
- Limited range of motion
- Swelling, redness, or tenderness at the tumor site
Treatment most often begins after the tumor is biopsied. Chemotherapy is usually administered before putting the patient through a major surgery. Chemotherapy is done to help shrink or destroy any cancer cells that could have metastasized. Commonly used chemotherapy medications include:
- High-dose methotrexate along with leucovorin
To remove any remaining tumor after chemotherapy is completed, surgery may be done. For most patients, the affected limb can be saved while the tumor is removed. This type of surgery is referred to as limb-salvage surgery. However, in rare instances a more radical surgery may be necessary, such as amputation.
Harvard Medical School MassGeneral Hospital for Children. (2010). Bone Disorders. Retrieved on October 8, 2010 from Harvard Medical School MassGeneral Hospital for Children: https://www.mgh.harvard.edu/children/adolescenthealth/articles/aa_bone_disorders.aspx
KidsHealth from Nemours. (2010). Childhood Cancer: Osteosarcoma. Retrieved on October 8, 2010 from KidsHealth from Nemours: https://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/cancer/cancer_osteosarcoma.html
MedlinePlus. (2009). Osteosarcoma. Retrieved on October 8, 2010 from MedlinePlus: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001650.htm