Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
What is bone cancer? What is metastatic bone cancer?
Bone cancer is a cancer that arises from the different cells
that make up the bones of the body. When cancer is found in bones, it has usually started in another
organ or another location in the body and has secondarily spread to the bones. This is known as metastatic cancer and is named for the site where the original
cancer began (for example, metastatic colon cancer) and
is not a primary bone cancer. Metatstaic cancer to bone is much more common than primary bone cancer, in
which the bone cells themselves become malignant. Primary and metastatic bone cancers are often treated differently and have a different prognosis.
There are other cancers that may begin in the bone even though they are not considered to be true bone cancers. Lymphoma is a cancer of the cells that are
responsible for the immune response of the body. Lymphoma usually begins in the lymph nodes, but it sometimes begins in the bone marrow. Multiple myeloma is another
cancer of the immune cells that typically begins in the bone marrow. These tumors are not considered primary bone cancers because they do not arise from bone
This article focuses on primary bone cancer, which is cancer of the bone cells themselves.
Who is at risk for bone cancer?
About 2,300 cases of bone cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Primary bone cancers are not common and accoount for far less than 1% of all cancers. Bone
cancers are more common in children and younger adults in older people. Cancer found in the bones of an older adult is more likely metastatic from another location
in the body.
Risk factors have been identified for the development of certain bone cancers. Risk factors include the following:
Whether the cancer in bone is primary or metastatic, the early symptoms vary from no symptoms at all to severe bone pain. It is very common for cancer in bone to not cause any symptoms. This form of cancer can only be detected using imaging tests, such as X-ray tests, computerized tomography (CT scan), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).