What is the Difference Between Primary and Metastatic Bone Cancer?

bone cancer treatment los angelesWith any form of cancer, an early diagnosis, followed by preventing it from spreading (metastasizing), is always a priority. Depending on the type of cancer and where it is located, tumors tend to be the most treatable when they are smaller and contained to one area, making it easier for surgical oncologists to remove as much malignant tissue as possible during a cancer surgery, and subsequent treatments with chemotherapy, radiation, and biologic treatments. As an orthopedic oncologist in Los Angeles, Dr. Daniel C. Allison has been specially trained both in cancer treatment and in the musculoskeletal conditions that may arise from primary or metastatic bone tumors.

Primary vs. Metastatic Bone Cancer

Metastatic bone cancer is cancer that has spread to other organs and tissue from the site in the body where it originally developed. When breast or kidney cancer spreads to the bones, it is metastatic. All forms of cancer have the potential to become metastatic. Although generally rare, there are several forms of cancer where the tumors originate either in the bone, or from the marrow tissue inside the bones, which designates them as primary bone cancers. Orthopedic oncologists specialize in treating patients with various forms of osteosarcomas (bone tumors).

Types of Primary Bone Tumors

Orthopedic oncology specialists treat the group of malignant (cancerous) tumors that develop in the bones of adults and children. Although primary bone cancer and soft tissue sarcomas are generally very rare, osteosarcoma can be one of the more common types of cancer to affect children. There are also some forms that are more common in older adults. There are also several classifications of bone tumor that are benign (non-cancerous).

The most common types of primary bone cancer are:

  • Osteosarcoma One of the most common forms of primary bone cancers, it is typically found in children and adolescents.
  • Ewing’s Sarcoma Similar to osteosarcomas, this rare cancer can affect either the soft or connective tissue (muscle, fat) or bones.
  • Chondrosarcoma This type of cancer affects the cartilage, and is most common in adults.
  • Chordoma – Most common in men over the age of 30, and typically diagnosed in the spine or the base of the skull.
  • Fibrosarcoma and Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma – This is a group of both soft tissue and osteo tumors that are most commonly found in older adults in the arms and legs and jaw.

Benign Bone Tumors

Many times, tumors are benign and do not lead to cancer. Some tumors overlap and have the potential to be either benign or malignant. Along with malignant primary and metastatic tumors, there are other types of benign growths that can develop in bones throughout the body:

  • Giant cell tumors
  • Osteochondromas
  • Endochondroma
  • Nonossifying fibroma unicameral
  • Fibrous dysplasia
  • Aneurysmal bone cyst

Common Forms of Metastatic Bone Cancers

  • Breast – Secondary breast cancer (metastatic) is most common in the bones. While it can technically affect any part of the body, the most common sites for metastasis are in the ribs, pelvis, arms, legs, skull, and spine.
  • Lung – Along with breast and prostate cancer, the lungs are one of the more likely organs to experience tumor metastasis to the bones. An estimated one out of three cases of metastatic lung tumors will spread to the bones.
  • Prostate – Like breast cancer, metastatic prostate cancer is most likely to spread to the bones.
  • Kidney – Like lung and breast cancer, metastases from the kidneys are more likely to affect the bones.

The treatment options and prognosis for metastatic cancer will vary considerably depending on the factors such as where it originated, the stage and grade of the tumors, the patient’s individual health and pathology profile, and a number of other factors.

Typical Bone Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms for both primary and secondary (metastatic) bone cancer can resemble less serious conditions like osteoarthritis, and the presence of symptoms alone does not necessarily indicate tumors. However patients with past or current cancer diagnoses, or those experiencing unexplained symptoms that do not resolve over time should consult with an orthopedic oncology specialist.

Some of the most common general symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained fractures (and limping)
  • Numbness and tingling (when tumors are present on the spine)
  • Hypercalcemia (osteo tumors can cause an excess of calcium in the bloodstream, which can cause symptoms like exhaustion, confusion, nausea, constipation, and loss of appetite).

Bone and Soft Tissue Tumor Treatment in Los Angeles

Board certified orthopedic oncologist Dr. Daniel C. Allison offers comprehensive treatment for soft tissue tumors and osteosarcomas. Treatment typically depends on a number of facts such as the location, stage, and prognosis of the tumors.

Treatment options for connective tissue and bone malignancies include:

  • Surgical tumor resection
  • Bone and joint reconstruction
  • Soft tissue coverage
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Biologic therapy

To learn more about bone treatment, visit cancer.gov.

Contact an orthopedic oncology surgeon in Los Angeles

To learn more about soft tissue (sarcoma) and bone cancer diagnosis and treatment, or for a second opinion, contact board certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel C. Allison at 310-683-4586 to request an appointment today.

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