Health Information

Osteosarcoma

What is osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer among children, adolescents, and young adults.

The disease usually occurs in the long bones, such as the arms (humerus), legs (femur/tibia), and pelvis. It rarely occurs in the jaw and fingers, but often occurs at the ends of these bones near growth plates.

Osteosarcoma cancer cells can also spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body. Most commonly, these cells spread to the lungs. However, bones, kidneys, the adrenal gland, the brain, and the heart can also be sites of metastasis.

What causes osteosarcoma?

The exact cause of osteosarcoma is not known, but genetics may play an important role. Children and adults with other hereditary abnormalities, including exostoses (bony growths), retinoblastoma, Ollier's disease, osteogenesis imperfecta, polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, and Paget's disease, have an increased risk for developing osteosarcoma.

This form of cancer has also been linked to exposure to ionizing irradiation associated with radiation therapy for other types of cancer (i..e., Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin disease).

What are the symptoms of osteosarcoma?

The following are the most common symptoms of osteosarcoma. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, the following:

The symptoms may have been present over a short period of time or may have been occurring for six months or more. Often, an injury brings a child into a medical facility, where an x-ray may indicate suspicious bone lesions.

The symptoms of osteosarcoma may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is osteosarcoma diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination of your child, diagnostic procedures for osteosarcoma may include:

Treatment for osteosarcoma:

Specific treatment for osteosarcoma will be determined by your child's physician based on:

Treatment may include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following:

Long-term outlook for a child with osteosarcoma:

Prognosis for osteosarcoma greatly depends on:

A person who was treated for bone cancer as a child or adolescent may develop effects months or years after treatment ends. These effects are called late effects. The kind of late effects one develops depends on the location of the tumor and the way it was treated.

Some types of treatment may later affect fertility. If this side effect is permanent, it will cause infertility, or the inability to have children. Both men and women can be affected.

As with any cancer, prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from child to child. Every child is unique and treatment and prognosis is structured around the child's needs. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best prognosis. Continuous follow-up care is essential for a child diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, as well as second malignancies, can occur in survivors of osteosarcoma.

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