Warning signs of bone cancer

There are two types of bone cancer, primary and secondary. Primary bone cancer occurs when the cancer originates in your bones, while secondary (metastatic) bone cancer refers to cancer that has spread to the bone from another part of the body.

These cancers are treated differently.

Primary bone cancer is rare. While there are over 30 different types of primary bone cancer, only 255 Australians were diagnosed with it in 2015.

Common symptoms of primary bone cancer include:

  • Pain in the bones and joints
  • Problems with movement
  • Swelling over the affected area
  • Tiredness
  • Numbness in the affected area
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Secondary bone cancer is more common. If the cancer in your bones is secondary, it is important for doctors to find out where it originated from. According to Cancer Research UK, the most common types of cancer to spread are breast, lung, kidney, prostate and thyroid.

Symptoms of secondary bone cancer include:

  • Continuous pain
  • Weaker bones that become more likely to break
  • Backache
  • Lower blood cell count
  • Spinal cord compression – felt as a pressure in the spine
  • Hypercalcaemia – raised blood calcium

Diagnosis of bone cancer may include X-rays, biopsy, CT or MRI scans.

It’s important to remember that bone cancers are rare. However, if you experience these symptoms it is important to consult your GP. Cancers are easier to treat when detected early, and there may be other non-cancerous causes of your symptoms that need medical attention.

Visit the Cancer Council for more information on the causes of bone cancer, how to reduce your risk and to learn about treatment.

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Written by Liv Gardiner

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