Advances in medical research have made it possible for doctors to catch many types of cancers in their earliest stages, including cervical, breast, colorectal, and skin cancers. Unfortunately, there is no special test for early detection of bone cancer , so it’s important to pay careful attention to bone cancer signs and symptoms in order to catch bone cancer as early as possible.
And for good reason: While primary bone cancer — cancer that starts in the bone — is relatively rare, accounting for about 0.5 percent of all cancers, it is thought to be a terminal condition for at least half of all people diagnosed with the condition.
Bone Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Doctors have identified key indicators of bone cancer, including:
- Pain: Pain in the area where the cancer is growing is the most common bone cancer sign reported by patients. The pain will not be constant at first, and may come and go. It could become worse at night or when the bone is used. For example, pain in your arm after lifting heavy objects or pain in your leg after a long walk may be a bone cancer sign. The pain will become more frequent as the cancer grows, and eventually will become constant. If it’s caused by bone cancer, over-the-counter pain relievers will not be able to help the pain, even in the earliest stages.
- Swelling: Another bone cancer sign is swelling in the area where pain is felt, especially if the cancer is located in or near a joint. A person may also feel a lump or mass, depending on the tumor’s location. Unfortunately, this bone cancer sign might not occur for a while after the cancer has started growing, making it a poor early indicator.
- Bone fractures: Although rare, a bone tumor can eat away at the bone until it becomes so weak that it breaks. Such fractures can occur doing something as basic as standing up, kneeling down, or rolling over in bed. Often people who have suffered a bone fracture from cancer say they experienced sudden and severe pain in the area of the fracture a day or so prior to the break.
- Other bone cancer symptoms: Other bone cancer signs and symptoms are common to any form of cancer. These include weight loss, fatigue, fever, and anemia (a condition where blood is deficient in oxygen-carrying red blood cells).
- Many of these bone cancer signs may also signify other health conditions. For example, arthritis can cause swelling near a joint. A torn muscle or ligament can cause pain similar to that experienced by bone cancer patients. So it is essential that you see your doctor as soon as possible to have any possible bone cancer symptoms evaluated and accurately diagnosed.
Until medical researchers design a screening test for bone cancer, these signs and symptoms are all we have to indicate that there could be trouble ahead. If you experience any of these possible bone cancer symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. If it is cancer, the earlier it is caught and treated, the better the outcome.