Bone cancer is a rare condition that occurs due to the abnormal growth of a cancerous tumor within healthy bone tissue. The National Cancer Institute reports that the most common forms of bone cancer include osteosarcoma and chondrosarcoma, which can cause symptoms such as bone pain or swelling. If you are diagnosed with bone cancer, your doctor may recommend a number of treatment options including surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Such treatments can cause side effects, which should be discussed with your doctor prior to beginning bone cancer therapy.
Bone cancer can be of two types: bone sarcomas and multiple myeloma. Bone cancer treatment starts with certain chemotherapies and radiation therapies, in which cancer cells are destroyed and in the process even healthy cells can get damaged which causes side effects. The side effects of bone cancer treatment depend on the method of treatment, the age of the patient and location of the tumour. Some of the side effects are permanent and some side effects are temporary. Three types of treatments which are used for bone cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Unfortunately, there are risks and side effects with each of the treatments for bone cancer. The main risks associated with surgery include infection, recurrence of the cancer, and injury to the surrounding tissues. In order to remove the entire cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence, some surrounding normal tissue must also be removed. Depending on the location of the cancer, this may require the removal of portions of bone, muscle, nerves, or blood vessels. This could cause weakness, loss of sensation, and the risk of fracture of the remaining bone. You could be referred to a rehabilitation specialist for physical and occupational therapy after surgery to try to improve your strength and function.
Chemotherapy uses very powerful medication to try to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, some normal cells are also killed in the process. The medications are designed to kill rapidly dividing or growing cells. The normal cells that are affected often include hair, blood-forming cells, and cells lining the digestive system.
The short term side effects of bone cancer treatment using chemotherapy are:
- a restricted growth of blood forming cells.
- anaemia, fever and sterility.
- a reduction in the resistance to infection.
- It affects the appetite and causes vomiting, nausea and mouth sores.
- Low energy and poor stamina.
- The long term side effect of chemotherapy is that the man or the woman may lose fertility. After undergoing the therapy, the patient may have difficulty in producing children.
Radiation therapy: In radiation therapy, high energy radiations are used to kill cancer cells as well as the DNA of the cells which can cause the tumour. Sometimes, radiation therapy also kills normal cells. The other side effects of bone cancer treatment using radiation therapy include:
- Patient may suffer from fatigue and tiredness all the time.
- Skin reaction may happen, and the patient may suffer from dryness or redness The skin should be protected against direct sun but one should not apply any chemicals or cream on the skin without consulting a doctor.
- To prevent dental infection, the patient’s teeth should be examined by a doctor regularly during therapy.
- Loss of appetite is a common side effect of bone cancer treatments.
There are many risks and side effects associated with the various therapies adopted for the treatment of bone cancer. In radiation therapy it has been found that the risk of reoccurrence of the condition in the same area is very high, but most physicians can tell during the treatment about the chances of recurrence. The main risk of bone cancer therapies are infections and injury to the tissues. After surgery of bone cancer, rehabilitation is very important for the patient to recover.
Some Common Side Effects of Bone Cancer Treatments
During bone cancer surgery, it is possible that you can sustain nerve damage as a result of this procedure. If this occurs, you can experience temporary or permanent sensations of numbness, tingling or prickling at the site of surgery. Symptoms of numbness that develop in the extremities can interfere with your ability to walk or handle small items such as a writing pen normally.
Excessive fatigue is a predominate side effect associated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, explains the National Cancer Institute. These forms of bone cancer treatment can worsen fatigue symptoms associated with your medical condition.
Both radiation therapy and chemotherapy bone cancer treatments can cause hair loss (alopecia) to occur in certain patients. Hair loss attributed to radiation therapy typically only occurs at the site of radiation, while chemotherapy treatment can cause hair loss across the body (scalp, eyebrows, eye lashes). Once you have completed bone cancer treatment with radiation or chemotherapy, your hair will begin to grow normally.
If you choose chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat your bone cancer, you can develop mouth-related side effects due to these forms of treatment. Some patients develop painful mouth ulcers and infection or find it difficult to swallow normally. Such side effects can contribute to additional problems, including loss of appetite or nausea.
Surgical, radiation or chemotherapeutic bone cancer treatment can cause skin-related side effects to develop in some patients. After surgery, you can experience scarring, inflammation or swelling at the site of the incision. Chemotherapy can cause your skin to become itchy or abnormally sensitive to sunlight, according to the Better Health Channel, an informational health website established by the Australian government. Radiation therapy can cause your skin to appear red, dry or flaky and can cause swelling, blistering or itching to occur in some patients.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause stomach upset to occur during treatment for bone cancer. Symptoms of stomach upset include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Typically, such symptoms subside once cancer treatment has ended.