Osteosarcoma: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

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What is osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma can develop in any bone in the body and is a form of bone cancer. It typically begins in osteoblasts, the cells responsible for making new bone. However, osteosarcoma can also affect those in their later years.

Pain, swelling, and bone fractures can result from the osteosarcoma tumor cells’ aberrant development and destruction of healthy bone. Although the long bones of the arms and legs are the most prevalent sites for this disease, it can also manifest in the hips and shoulders.

Location and cell type have a role in classifying osteosarcomas into distinct subtypes. While some cancers progress slowly, others spread swiftly to other organs like the lungs, complicating treatment.

Although rare, early diagnosis is critical for successful treatment outcomes. Learning about its symptoms, such as persistent pain or swelling near a bone, should prompt immediate medical attention to avoid further complications.

What are the symptoms of osteosarcoma?

Although osteosarcoma can occur in any bone, it most often manifests in the thighbones and shinbones. Most cases are found in people under the age of 30.

Pain or swelling in the affected area, especially at night or after physical exercise, can be an early sign of osteosarcoma. The discomfort can be either subtle or acute, and it tends to linger for a while.

Osteosarcoma patients often also have unexplained weight loss and exhaustion. Because of stiffness or weakness, they may have trouble moving the affected limb.

Fractures, deformities, and limited mobility are just some of the more serious side effects that may occur as the tumor expands. If the osteosarcoma has progressed to other places of the body, the patient may also experience fever.

If you see any changes or persistent problems in your health, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. The prognosis for patients with this aggressive cancer improves with earlier diagnosis and therapy.

What causes osteosarcoma?

The precise reason why some people are more likely to acquire the extremely rare bone cancer known as osteosarcoma is unknown. High radiation exposure in the past is one such condition that can cause aberrant cell development.

Li-Fraumeni syndrome and hereditary retinoblastoma are two examples of genetic disorders that interfere with normal bone growth. Bones weakened by these circumstances are more prone to tumor growth.

Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to osteosarcoma during times of fast bone growth. It is hypothesized that the rapid turnover of cells at this time can foster the growth of aberrant cells.

The onset of osteosarcoma may also be influenced by one’s way of life. Regular exercise may help minimize the risk, but heavy alcohol use has been related to an elevated risk.

Osteosarcoma has a wide variety of possible causes. To completely understand these pathways and provide effective prevention methods for at-risk individuals, more research is required.

How is osteosarcoma diagnosed?

Diagnosing osteosarcoma is a complex process that requires several tests and procedures. The diagnosis usually starts with examining symptoms, medical history, and physical exams by a physician or an orthopedic oncologist.

After the initial checkup, imaging tests including X-rays, CT scans, and MRI could be used to spot any irregularities in bone mass. A biopsy will be performed for definitive diagnosis if the imaging results suggest the presence of osteosarcoma.

A little piece of bone tissue is removed for testing in the lab to determine if it is malignant. Biopsies can either be performed with a needle or by surgery. Needle biopsies are performed with local anaesthetic and a fine needle to extract tissue from the afflicted location, while surgical biopsies are performed under general anesthesia and involve more extensive incisions.

Once diagnosed with osteosarcoma, additional blood and pulmonary function tests may also be required to determine if the cancer has spread beyond its original location. All these diagnostic procedures help doctors determine which stage your cancer is at so they can plan treatment accordingly.

You must discuss all aspects of your diagnosis with your doctor, including potential complications, before making decisions about treatment options.

How is osteosarcoma treated?

Chemotherapy, surgical removal of the tumor, and radiation therapy are all used to combat osteosarcoma. The extent to which the tumor has spread and the specific area at which it was first discovered will determine the course of treatment.

1. Chemotherapy. This method utilizes medications to eradicate cancer cells systemically. Before surgery, chemotherapy can reduce the size of the tumor, and it can be used following surgery to kill any leftover cancer cells.

2. Surgery is often necessary to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. Depending on where the tumor is located, amputation may be required. However, limb-sparing surgeries have become more common for many osteosarcoma patients that haven’t yet spread beyond bone.

3. Radiation therapy may also be used with chemotherapy and surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells that couldn’t be removed during surgery.

An individualized treatment strategy for osteosarcoma should be developed in close collaboration between the patient and their healthcare team.

What is the prognosis for people with osteosarcoma?

The prognosis for patients with osteosarcoma is conditional on a number of factors, including the extent to which the cancer has spread and how well they respond to treatment.

Successful therapy increases with the earlier a disease is diagnosed, before it has spread. Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to remove the tumor. Patients’ survival rates improve with the combination of the two therapies.

However, if the osteosarcoma has migrated from its original location, treatment may be more difficult. Patients with metastatic disease had a significantly worse survival rate at five years compared to those without the cancer.

In light of this, it is imperative that each patient receives specialized attention from a qualified medical staff. Many people with osteosarcoma can live long, healthy lives with the help of medical professionals.


Osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bones that can affect anyone of any age and is extremely dangerous when it does develop. Its precise origins are uncertain, but genetic alterations and radiation exposure are both suspected risk factors.

The importance of early detection and treatment cannot be overstated. Never disregard discomfort, swelling, or a limp, especially if they have persisted for some time. X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, amongst others, can aid in the diagnosis of osteosarcoma.

Depending on the severity of the disease, the primary treatment choices are either chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy. Rather than amputating a limb entirely, limb-salvage surgery may be attempted if the cancer has not spread beyond the site of the afflicted bone.

While prognosis depends on several factors, like how early it was caught, prompt medical attention significantly improves survival rates. With advancements in technology and medicine over time, there is hope for a cure close to now.

If you suspect you have any symptoms related to Osteosarcoma or have reasons to believe that you might be at higher risk due to previous illnesses/exposure, do visit your doctor immediately!



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