Osteosarcoma is a very rare type of cancerous bone tumor that usually develops in teenagers. It often occurs when a teen is growing rapidly.
Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer in children. Average age at diagnosis is 15. 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.
The cause is not known. In some cases, osteosarcoma runs in families. At least one gene has been linked to an increased risk. This gene is also associated with familial retinoblastoma. This is a cancer of the eye that occurs in children.
Osteosarcoma tends to occur in the bones of the:
Osteosarcoma occurs most commonly in large bones in the area of bone with the fastest growth rate. However, it can occur in any bone.
The first symptom is usually bone pain near a joint. This symptom may be overlooked because of other more common causes of joint pain.
Other symptoms may include any of the following:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about the medical history and symptoms.
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment usually starts after a biopsy of the tumor is done.
Before surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy is usually given. This can shrink the tumor and make surgery easier. It may also kill any cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery is used 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. In rare cases, more involved surgery (amputation) is necessary.
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you and your family not feel alone.
If the tumor has not spread to the lungs (pulmonary metastasis), long-term survival rates are better. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, the outlook is worse. However, there is still a chance of cure with effective treatment.
Complications may include:
Call your provider if you or your child has persistent bone pain, tenderness, or swelling.
Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.