Primary bone cancer is defined as cancer that starts in the bones. Secondary bone cancer is cancer that begins in another area of the body and spreads to the bones. Primary bone cancer most often begins in the limbs. The first noticeable symptom is often persistent pain. Once there is sufficient reason for further investigation, there are procedures that a doctor may order to discover if bone cancer is present and to what extent it may have spread.
Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
Know that primary bone cancer is relatively rare. It tends to affect children and young people more often than adults. Secondary bone cancer is more common.
Take the first test. If bone cancer is suspected, a blood test will be given to see if there is a large amount of alkaline phosphatase in the blood stream. This enzyme is produced when your bone cells are highly active. However, an elevated level does not automatically mean you have cancer.
Proceed with imaging tests. X-rays, bone scans, MRIs, CT and PET scans may all be performed. You may have to swallow a slightly radioactive material before some tests to enable the scan to see the bones more clearly. PET scans can detect cancer anywhere in the body.
Get a biopsy if further testing is needed. After a mass has been detected, a biopsy can determine if the tumor is cancerous or benign. Several kinds of biopsies are available, and the cancer specialist will need to determine which kind is best. Removing the tumor is a possibility if it is small when the biopsy is taken.
Obtain a second opinion if you get a diagnosis of bone cancer. You have the right to get a second opinion, and getting one can help you learn more about the process by which bone cancer is diagnosed.
Learn more about bone cancer. If you are diagnosed, there may be many changes in your life. You can help yourself cope with this disease by learning more about it. The Web site of the American Cancer Society is a good place to start (see "Resources" below).