Osteosarcoma: Causes, Symptoms, and Natural Treatments

Osteosarcoma is a bone cancer most common in children. It often spreads to other areas of the body, but with early diagnosis and treatment, the survival rate increases greatly. Read on to learn how you can make living with osteosarcoma more manageable.

7 minute read

Last Updated July 14, 2020

Osteosarcoma: Causes, Symptoms, and Natural Treatments

Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer in children and one of the lesser common cancers in adults. It typically develops in the shinbone or thighbone near the knee or the upper arm bone near the shoulder. 

Osteosarcoma develops during growth spurts because tumors are more common when bone growth occurs at such a rapid pace.

What Causes Osteosarcoma?

There is not an exact cause known for osteosarcoma, but there are factors known to increase your risk for developing abnormal bone growths. 

♦ Abnormal cellular growth can cause excessive cell growth and the formation of tumors. 
♦ Having a family history of bone cancers
♦ Having Paget’s disease of bone, which causes disruption to bone recycling 
♦ Previously having tumors in the cartilage

Osteosarcoma Symptoms

The symptoms experienced will depend on the location of the tumor and can include:

Bone fractures
Bone pain in motion or at rest
♦ Swelling
♦ Limping
♦ Limited joint movement

The symptoms can mimic growing pains, which are a normal part of growth and development. These pains will typically disappear by the early teenage years, so if pain continues later in adolescence, it is important to seek medical treatment.

Osteosarcoma Diagnosis

A physical examination will be done first to look for redness and swelling. Your doctor will also need to evaluate your medical history, including previous illnesses and injuries. A blood test to identify tumor markers and cancer can also be done. 

In addition, other imaging and diagnostic tests can be performed to diagnose osteosarcoma, including:

♦ CT scan to examine bones
♦ MRI to identify where on the entire bone a tumor is located
♦ Bone scan to identify bone growths and abnormalities
♦ Biopsy of bone tissue to test for cancer

Treatment for Osteosarcoma

Chemotherapy is the most common treatment approach for osteosarcoma. Chemotherapy drugs are used to shrink and kill cancerous cells, and treatment length will depend on where the cancer is. Cancer that has spread in the body will require lengthier treatment plans and in many cases, will also require surgery to remove tumors. 

Additional treatment options include:

♦ Pain medications to relieve discomfort and reduce inflammation
♦ Cytotoxic drugs to stop cancer cell growth
♦ Bisphosphonates to prevent bone loss and protect bone structure

Osteosarcoma Diet

Good nutrition is necessary for overall health and can make a significant difference when fighting or preventing cancer. Treatment for osteosarcoma can also interfere with your appetite, so it is important to maintain a healthy weight as you undergo therapy. 

The diet you follow will differ depending on which stage of treatment you are going through.

♦ Before treatment: Eat a diet high in protein (eggs, meat, fish, and legumes) and high in calories. 

♦ During treatment: High protein and caloric intake will provide energy to heal quickly, and greasy or high-sugar foods should be avoided.

♦ After treatment: Eat plenty of fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and plenty of proteins.

Natural Treatments for Osteosarcoma

Outside of chemotherapy and surgical removal of tumors, there are natural remedies you can try to support healing and prevent osteosarcoma. Natural therapies should be used in conjunction with medical treatment and not as a replacement. 

Supplements and herbs, along with acupuncture or massage, can help relieve symptoms. You must discuss all alternative therapies with your doctor before starting them to avoid risks of drug interactions or adverse side effects. 

The recommended herbs for osteosarcoma include:

♦ Garlic has the ability to inhibit cancer-causing properties and can speed up DBNA repair processes to prevent the proliferation of cancer cells.

♦ Turmeric plays an important role in reducing inflammation, which has long been known to contribute to and worsen cancer symptoms.

♦ Ginseng contains cancer-fighting properties that reduce the number of cancer cells to prevent or inhibit tumor growth.

♦ Echinacea is beneficial for those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment as it is well-known to reduce the unpleasant side effects of these therapies. 

Osteosarcoma Surgery

Surgery is often required after chemotherapy to remove tumors. In most cases, the affected limb can be saved, and the tumor and surrounding bone are all that need to be removed. 

With surgery, missing bone is replaced with artificial bone, and additional chemotherapy may be done to destroy any lingering cancer cells. In some cases, limb amputation may be necessary if cancer has spread.

What Are the Variations of Osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma is classified in stages, depending on where the cancer is and its activity in the body.

Stage 1: Cancer has not spread from the bone.
Stage 2: Cancer has not spread, but it is invasive and a threat.
Stage 3: Cancer is invasive and has spread outside the bone.
Stage 4: Cancer has spread to nearby tissues and organs, such as the brain or lungs.

Osteosarcoma Statistics

♦ Osteosarcoma is more common in boys than in girls.
♦ The average age of diagnosis is 15 years of age.
♦ 3 out of 4 people can be cured if cancer has remained in the original bone.
♦ The survival rate is 30 percent when cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Osteosarcoma in Children 

As with all cancers, children can develop osteosarcoma too. It is the most common type of cancer in children accounting for 3 percent of all childhood cancers. 

Just as in adults, osteosarcoma starts in the bones and spreads to other areas of the body, usually the lungs. Teenage boys are the most commonly affected, and tumors grow during rapid growth spurts. 

Osteosarcoma in children can be treated in the same way as adults, with chemotherapy and surgical removal of tumors. 

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

With treatment and surgery, the outlook is generally good. Recurrence of osteosarcoma can happen, so it is important to have follow-up visits and scans to regularly check for tumors. 

Successful treatment of osteosarcoma has a survival rate of 70 percent, and this is higher when tumors are small and low grade. Early identification of a tumor is essential to successful treatment, quality of life, and longevity.

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