The most common causes of bone cancer in children are abnormalities in the DNA or chromosomes. Children are more likely to get bone cancer than adults because it usually develops while bones are growing. It is most likely to affect tall children, especially teenage boys. As radiation can affect the DNA, it is also common to find bone cancer in children who have had treatments for other kinds of cancer.
Though cancer often spreads to the bones from other parts of the body, it can also originate in the bones in a condition known as osteosarcoma. This is the most common form of bone cancer in children, because it is caused by fast growth of the bones, which is propelled by DNA programming. Patients with this form of bone cancer may also have other cancers such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, which develops from genetic mutation or retinoblastoma, which is a tumor in the retina.
Ewing’s sarcoma is rare, but particularly severe form of bone cancer in children. It usually develops in children under fifteen years of age. The cancer is caused by a specific abnormality in the chromosomes known as translocation. The condition can develop due to the improper placement of the chromosomes. This form of cancer often spreads to other organs in the body such as the bone marrow and lungs.
Some of the common symptoms of bone cancer in children include consistent pain in the limbs and swelling or the growth of lumps in the affected area. As the disease weakens bones, a break can also indicate the condition. The pain tends to affect the longest bones and may be intense enough to cause a limp if the growth is in the legs. Long periods of rest, such as during sleep, and exercise can worsen the pain.
Bone cancer in children is diagnosed via a varied series of tests. After an initial physical exam, the child is given an x-ray. Bone scans and computed tomography (CT) chest scans are also common diagnostic tools. A doctor will often also conduct a magnetic resolution image (MRI) in order to be sure of a diagnosis.
The most common treatments for bone cancer in children include a combination of chemotherapy and surgery. In some cases, surgery to remove the tumor is performed first and then chemotherapy is used to kill any remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy may also be administered first in order to shrink the tumor before surgery. Serious cases may require amputation of a limb.