Osteosarcoma is a disease in which malignant cancer cells are found in the bone. It is the most commonly diagnosed form of bone cancer occurring in children, teens and young adults.
Osteosarcoma most often occurs during growth spurts, and typically forms in the long bones—arms and legs—most commonly around the knees. It is very rarely found in the soft tissues of the body or organs of the chest or abdomen. The symptoms and chances of recovery are the same for children and adolescents. Although rare, it can occur in adults.
Malignant fibrous histiocytoma or MFH of the bone is a rare tumor treated like osteosarcoma. It may occur following radiation treatments.
After late adolescence, males seem to be more at risk of developing osteosarcoma than females. The average age is 15. Although the cause of bone cancer is unknown, osteosarcoma can run in families. At least one gene has been linked to increased risk. This gene is also associated with familial retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye that occurs in children. As in cases of MFH, having past radiation therapy or treatment with anticancer drugs called alkylating agents can also be risk factors for developing osteosarcoma.
Osteosarcoma and MFH can cause symptoms such as swelling or redness over a bone or bony part of the body, pain or tenderness in a bone or joint, or a bone that seems to break for no known reason.
Diagnosing osteosarcoma and MFH typically rely on imaging tests before a biopsy is done. This may include x-rays, CAT scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to get detailed information. If a biopsy is needed, the size and location of the tumor will determine the type of biopsy to be used. A surgeon with expertise in treating cancer of the bone usually performs this procedure.
Recovery and long-term survival is high if the tumor has not spread to the lungs (pulmonary metastasis). If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, outcome is still good with effective treatment. In addition to pulmonary metastasis, other complications include chemotherapy side effects and limb removal.