Osteosarcoma or osteogenic sarcoma (also known as OS or osteo) is an aggressive malignant primary bone cancer. When OS metastasizes (spreads) it is often to the lungs but metastases to other bones may occur. It often begins near the ends of leg or arm bones near joints. Osteosarcoma is rarer in other bones like the pelvis, shoulder, and jaw but unusual sites are increasingly seen in older adults. Given its rarity and time of usual diagnosis, it is common to be misdiagnosed as a benign tumor or dismissed as growing pains. Understanding the signs and symptoms of Osteosarcoma can help identify the signs and catch it faster.
With about 800+ cases a year diagnosed in the United States, OS is the most prevalent bone cancer affecting children and adolescent/young adults. Osteosarcoma can occur at any age but the most common age for diagnosis is in children and young adults during growth spurt times. There are a few known risk factors such as:
There are no known environmental risk factors. You didn’t do anything to cause this cancer.
Jen from Tasmania suggests, “Always question the doctors. If you aren’t satisfied with their answers you have the right to a second opinion. If you think you aren’t being listened to, go higher. Don’t give up until you get a definitive answer which suits the symptoms. Insist on the scans!”
There are several different common signs of osteosarcoma. If you are noticing these signs, communicate with your doctor to understand more steps.
Linda from Pennsylvania suggests, “Trust your instincts about your doctors. If you feel a strong connection and a lot of confidence in your doctor, then go with it. If you do not feel confident or feel something is off, go with that as well and look for a doctor you trust and feel confident in. We felt a very strong connection with the surgeon who diagnosed our son and a level of confidence that helped us to have a positive outlook.”
Unlike a common cold or flu where you work with your family doctor for all aspects of treatment, a diagnosis of osteosarcoma comes with setting up an entire team to provide the care and treatment needed. Focus on allowing your personal team to be there for you. some will be absent but many more will show up when you didn’t expect them to be there. It is important to let those who are there for your family to offer and do what they can. Family and friends are often struggling to understand what is happening. Allow people to offer support in the way they are able to - it’s therapeutic for them too.
B’s Mom says, “Act quickly. Keep a positive attitude for your child. There are NO dumb questions, stay informed on your level of understanding. If you don’t understand or know... ASK! Guessing is worse than knowing.”
MIB Agents is a leading pediatric osteosarcoma nonprofit dedicated to Making It Better for our community of patients, caregivers, doctors, and researchers with the goal of less toxic, more effective treatments and a cure for this aggressive bone cancer. By supporting doctors, researchers, and the medical community along with families and patients, MIB agents strive to fight Osteosarcoma.
*No two osteosarcoma patients are the same, therefore there is no substitute for the expert care of your medical team. This is not meant to replace the guidance of your oncology team. It is meant to share resources, information and support.