Musculoskeletal tumours

learn more about musculoskeletal tumours

A bone tumour is an abnormal growth of cells in a specific cell line inside the bone. They are split into two groups: malignant and benign, according to their ability to spread (form metastases) in other organs and tissues.
Inside benign lesions, there are also a particular group of paratumoral lesions, which are not strictly speaking tumours but appear as such. Examples of these lesions are bone cysts.
Depending on the cell line from which the tumour originates, both malignant and benign tumours are classified in bone-forming, cartilage-forming, giant cell tumours, etc. Each one has its own distinct prognosis and treatment.
In the skeleton, it is more likely that metastases will form due to another type of cancer (breast, lung, kidney, thyroid, etc.) than from a bone tumour. Bone tumours (less than 1% of all tumours) are more common in children and adolescents (making up 5% of all paediatric cancers). The most common forms are oestrogenic sarcoma (or osteosarcoma) and Ewing' s sarcoma.
Imagen preview infográfico sobre los osteosarcomas
Know what is a osteosarcoma and its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. [Infography only available in Spanish]
Download document
Treatment osteoid osteoma after two years of pain. [Video only available in Spanish]
Josué superó un sarcoma de partes blandas sin necesidad de amputar su brazo
Story of Joshua who overcame a soft tissue sarcoma without amputating his arm. [Video only available in Spanish]
The most common symptom of a bone tumour is limb pain.
The pain is usually constant, even at night, so much so that it wakes the patient up. This normally takes place in the knee of a growing child, although it can also occur in the bones in the torso, pelvis, etc. 
Sometimes, this is accompanied by a lump which grows very quickly. It is not usually accompanied by other problems affecting their general health like a fever or other symptoms.
The duration of these symptoms is very variable, but they normally last a few weeks or months as, unlike benign tumours, they grow very quickly.
Having limb pain during the night does not mean that you have sarcoma, but nearly all sarcomas start that way.
The cause of the majority of skeletal malignant tumours is unknown.
However, we know that cancer is a genetic disease, not because it transfers from parents to children (although this sometimes occurs), but because it originates in a genetic mutation that controls cell multiplication.
Studies into genetic mutations have greatly advanced and countless genetic studies have been carried aiming to further study this concept using samples taken from patients.
In some sarcomas (which is the name given to malignant tumours in the musculoskeletal system), the exact genetic mutation that has caused them is known. The new laboratory techniques for studying this field which have been produced in the last few years have generated great advances in the diagnosis and prognosis of these lesions and, in the future, will allow for more specific treatment of each tumour.
With these genetic studies, some sarcomas can be diagnosed for certain in less than 24 hours and, furthermore, doctors can evaluate whether the sarcoma has a large or small chance of responding to treatment.

The cause is unknown for the majority of malignant skeletal tumours. Bone tumours are most common in children and adolescents, and it makes up 5% of all paediatric cancers.

However, we know that cancer is a genetic disease, because it originates in a genetic mutation that controls cell multiplication.

Some of the risk factors for contracting a bone tumour are the metastasis of other cancers: breast, lung, kidney, thyroid, etc.

Another risk factor is not treating the disease in a specialised centre. This is because it is easy to confuse between distinct lesions and to not carry out an appropriate treatment as a result. 

With a quick diagnosis from an expert centre, the disease can be cured.
The type, position and size of the tumour as well as the presence or lack of a metastasis at the time of diagnosis and the tumour ́s response to chemotherapy, etc. are very important factors for the prognosis. 
It is essential that the diagnosis and treatment are carried out as soon as possible as delays could reduce the patient ́s life expectancy.
If you suspect that you have a malignant bone tumour, the most sensible thing to do is to go to an experienced hospital, in which the survival rate and limb preservation possibilities are greater than in other centres.
At the  ́Clínica Universidad de Navarra ́, the survival rate for osteosarcoma after 10 years is around 74%, with a limb preservation rate above 90%.
In the case of osteoid osteoma, percutaneous treatment using CAT scans can cure the disease even after open surgery has failed. The same happens with conservative surgery for soft tissue tumours, which in many cases cures the disease.

Osteosarcoma originates in cells that can be mutated whilst a child is growing. It ́s alinked with growing.”

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