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Childhood Osteosarcoma: Causes, Symptoms& Diagnosis

Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that most often affects pre-teens and teens. It usually develops at the edges of the long bones, such as those in the legs and arms.The areas and bones most often affected include –femur,and tibia near the knee and upper arm bone (humerus) near the shoulder. Symptoms of the bone cancer or childhood osteosarcoma can drastically vary from child to child. However,usually, the first symptom is anaching pain in a joint or a bone. In the beginning the pain may be recurring, however, with time it can become constant and worse, especially during the night.

The Two Types of Childhood Osteosarcoma

Primary Bone Cancer –This type of cancer develops in bone and if not treated in time can spread in other parts of the body as well. However, the treatment is possible if diagnosed and started on time. Primary bone cancer is common in kids.

Secondary Bone Cancer – Develops somewhere else and eventually spreads to bone.

The Causes of Osteosarcoma

There have been many types of research to track the causes of osteosarcoma, but the definite cause is still unknown. However, there are some known risk factorsthat may lead to osteosarcoma. The risk factors include – rapid bone growth, exposure to radiation (previous record of radiotherapy and chemotherapy) and genetic factors. Osteosarcoma is not caused by damage or injuries to the bone – although a damage without any explanation to it may draw attention to a bone tumour.

The Symptoms of Osteosarcoma

The symptoms of osteosarcoma can vary from individual to individual and depend on the affected bone. Teens and children with osteosarcoma may have the following signs or symptoms –

  • Difficulty in everyday activities like walking, lifting and moving

  • Weight loss

  • Mass (tumour) that can be felt through the skin
  • Painless swelling in a joint, tenderness, pain or lump

  • A broken bone with no explanation of how it occurred

  • Fever

  • Tiredness

  • Anaemia – Low red blood cell count

The Diagnosis of Osteosarcoma

The diagnosis process will begin with physical check-upsand thorough medical history examination. For example, the doctor may need to know if the child has ever gone through radiation treatment or any other member of the family has certain hereditary conditions. For a better diagnosis, the doctor may even suggest a few tests including –

Blood Tests: It’s imperative to know the functioning of organs such as liver and kidney for a proper diagnosis. Blood tests can provide information about the red blood cell count and state whether the child is anaemic or not. Lower red blood cell count is one of the symptoms of osteosarcoma.

X-Ray –It helps diagnose abnormal growths on the bones. Subsequently, the doctor may even suggest a chest X-ray to check if the cancer has spread to the lungs.

Computed Tomography –Through CT, the doctor checks if the tumour has spread to the lungs or not.

MRI –If an X-ray is not normal or the doctor finds something suspicious, MRI is the next step to get clear images of the body. Helps in millimeter by millimeter diagnosis of a tumour and its effect on the bone.

Bone scan –It easily identifies bone disorders through injection of radioactive material (small amount) into the body.

PET Scan–A special glucose tracer is used in this test that is concentrated in the cancer cells and helps identify the areas in the body where glucose uptake is high.

Biopsy –A piece of tissue from the affected area is removed to study the cancer cells.

Now that you have a clear idea about the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of osteosarcoma, make sure the doctor timely checks any lump, swelling, and pain forbetter treatment. Cancer treatment is possible if the diagnosis is madeproperly and the disease is detected at an early age. The oncology department at Max Hospital offers a holistic and integrated care in treating all kinds of cancer, making them the most trusted hospital in the country.



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