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Bone Cancer General FAQs

bone cancer

Q. What are the Osteoblast and Osteoclast cells in the body?

Ans. Bone is the supporting framework of the body. There are two kinds of bone cells namely osteoblasts and osteoclasts, which plays an important role in forming new bone.

  • Osteoblast is the cell that forms a new bone.
  • Osteoclast is the cell that dissolves old bone.

When both these cells are functioning normally, new bone is always produced and an old bone is dissolved. This helps keep the bones strong.

Q. What is role of bone metastasis causing bone changes in the body?

Ans. Cancer cells can affect the bones by interfering with osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Malfunction of these cells create two different types of situation where these cells behave abnormally.

a) Cancer cells release substances that turn on the osteoblasts, that leads to new bone being formed without breaking down the old bone. This makes affected bones harder, a condition called sclerosis. The areas of bone where this occurs are called osteoblastic or blastic lesions. Although these blastic areas are harder, the bone structure does not remain normal and break easily.

b) On the other hand, sometimes cancer cells make substances that turn on the osteoclasts that break down bones without new bone being made. This result in to weak bones and make holes in them, which is called osteolytic or lytic lesions. In this condition bones fractures quite often.

Q. What is the reason that makes bone cancer painful?

Ans. When a bone tumour grows, it presses on healthy bone tissue and can destroy it. Pain in the tumour affected area is the initial symptom of bone cancer and sometimes swelling also occurs with it.

Cancerous cells generate substance that dissolve and weaken bones. This may cause a bone to break, which is painful. As the tumour grows in the bone, nerve endings in and around the bone also send pain signals to the brain. Since bones are the basic foundation for framing body structure, hard or broken bones cause pain while body movement and affects overall functioning of body.

Q. What are the other problems caused by bone metastasis?

Ans. Bone metastasis can cause other problems as well:

  • When cancer spreads to the spine bones, it compresses spinal cord. This can cause nerve damage that may even lead to paralysis if not treated.
  • Bone damage is evident in bone cancer resulting release of excess calcium into the blood. This can lead to problems caused by high blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia).
Q. How can we manage bone metastases?

Ans. When cancer spreads to the bones from the body part it primarily developed, it is called bone metastasis. It may not be possible to heal bone metastases, but with proper medical and health care, quality of life can be maximised.

This care intended at reduced suffering and improving life quality, is called palliative care. Palliative care treats the symptoms caused by bone metastases. It does not treat the cancer itself. Some health care providers call this supportive care.

Q Why bone metastasis is named after the original location of cancer?

Ans. While primary cancer cells change their location they need to avoid attacks from the body’s immune system. In this process, these cells form new tumours and may no longer be exactly the same as the original (primary) tumour where they originated, but they will still be called the same name. For instance, breast cancer that spreads to the bone is called metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer.

Q. Is follow-up after treatment for bone cancer is essential?

Ans. Once bone cancer treatment is complete, the doctor needs to observe closely patient’s health condition to see if any new symptoms have developed OR if there are old symptoms that may still be present. The possibility of bone cancer return is most high within 5 years hence follow-up treatment is necessary to check the after-effects of the treatment.

Bone cancer behaves differently in each person therefore a unique follow-up schedule should be designed.

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