Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in a person’s bones. This can be problematic for a number of reasons. Not only do bones provide essential functions like organ protection and stability, but they also help create new blood cells. Red cells, white cells and platelets are all produced in your bone marrow, so if an osteosarcoma inhibits your body’s ability to create these cells, your health can suffer.
What are Osteosarcomas?
Osteosarcomas are rare, but they are the most common type of cancer that develops inside your bones. There are only about 800 new osteosarcomas diagnosed every year. This type of cancer most commonly affects teens and young adults, but they can occur at any age. They most often occur in young adults and teens because that’s when our bones are doing a lot of growing, and osteosarcomas typically develop near the ends of long bones. Of the roughly 800 osteosarcomas diagnosed each year, about 400 occur in children and teens. The most common place for an osteosarcoma tumor to develop is in the distal femur, the proximal tibia or the proximal humerus. In older adults, osteosarcomas also tend to develop in the hips or jaw.
Grades and Treatments of Spinal Osteosarcomas
There are three main grades of osteosarcomas, and like high ankle sprains or burns, they are graded based on their severity. As such, sarcomas can either be graded:
- High grade osteosarcoma
- Intermediate grade osteosarcoma
- Low grade osteosarcoma
High grade osteosarcomas are the fastest growing types of osteosarcoma, and unfortunately these are the most common type of osteosarcomas that develop in children and teens. High grade osteosarcomas can also be broken down into several different subsets, based on the characteristics of the cancerous cells. Intermediate grade osteosarcomas are the rarest type, and the are often treated as a low grade sarcoma. These lower grades mean the cancer cells aren’t dividing as quickly, and thus treatment is typically more successful.
Treatment of the osteosarcoma depends on numerous factors, including its grade, location and if the cancer has spread. For osteosarcomas of the spine, treatment can be more difficult than in other areas of the body, as the spine provides our entire body with stability. There are three main types of treatment for spinal osteosarcomas:
- Radiation Therapy
Doctors have found that chemotherapy has greatly helped improve survival rates and save people from amputations if the tumor is located in a limb, so oftentimes chemotherapy and surgery are used in combination to treat a patient. The goal of surgery is two-fold; two remove the entire cancerous sarcoma, as leaving any behind could cause it to regrow, and to ensure the stability of the spine. It’s a complicated process, but your doctor can walk you through each step should you need to undergo spinal osteosarcoma removal surgery.