Bone Marrow Cancer | Symptoms | Treatments | Life Expectancy

Bone marrow cancer (or just plain bone cancer) is divided into three categories: Osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma. Osteosarcoma develops in the upper arm or knee. Chondrosarcoma affects the cushioning material preventing friction on the bones and joints (cartilage). Ewing sarcoma affects the soft tissues and primary nerve tissue in the bone.

Symptoms of Bone Marrow Cancer

The most common symptoms of bone marrow cancer include, but are not limited to, bone pain, weakness, fatigue, weight loss, fever, broken bones (often in the back), constipation, nausea, frequent urination, excessive thirst, and frequent infections. These symptoms are also present in a wide variety of illnesses other than bone marrow cancer and should be evaluated by the patient’s physician for a more complete spectrum of diagnoses. As with many cancers, bone cancer is often a diagnosis of exclusion; meaning, once more common diseases are eliminated from the diagnoses, bone marrow cancer may be one of the only types of disease present.

Treatments for Bone Marrow Cancer

Two primary treatment modalities for almost all forms of cancer are chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Radiation treatments carry with them the risk of destroying healthy tissue in the path of the radiation beam. Because of this, chemotherapy is often the preferred first modality of treatment before changing to radiation or a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is sometimes given before radiation therapy to see if the cancer can be reduced before moving on to stem cell transplantation. For bone marrow cancer, transplantation of stem cells (immature bone marrow) is undertaken to enable the bones to develop healthy tissue should chemotherapy and radiation fail to move the cancer toward remission. If bone marrow transplant is successful, the marrow then begins to generate new blood cells. The transplant may also cause certain healthy cells to attack cancer cells not affected by chemotherapy or radiation. Stem cells are unique. They may breed other types of blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow transplantation is also a procedure with significant risks and side effects. Because of this, bone marrow transplant is not indicated for many patients over age 50. It should be noted that the exact combination of treatment plans will depend upon the stage of the cancer, size and type of the bone cancer, and general health condition of the patient. However, the most common treatment for bone marrow cancer is surgery. This may involve removing the entire tumor leaving enough healthy tissue around the tumor edges to promote the growth of the tissue surrounding the tumor. However, care must be used to limit the removal of healthy tissue. Followup treatments include regular blood tests and imaging to confirm that the bone marrow cancer does not return. Children and teens are also more susceptible to the development of a different form of cancer as they age.

Life Expectancy with Bone Marrow Cancer

Bone cancer can cause serious discomfort over time causing quality of life to deteriorate if the cancer is not cured or returns. The statistics surrounding bone marrow cancer life expectancy are based on a group of people as a whole and this means every situation may be different than the situation that implied by general numbers and percentages.If the level of bone cancer is low grade and has not spread any further than its initial placement, there is a good chance of being cured. There is some evidence to suggest that certain bone marrow cancers which have already begun to spread can also respond well to further treatment. The survival rate for people who have bone cancer that has spread beyond the bone into other parts of the body can be between fifteen and thirty percent.