Bone Cancer Diagnosis
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Bone cancer diagnosis is done to predict the possibility of bone cancer. It can help the doctors identify the location and extent of the bone cancer. It can help in deciding the future course of treatment and procedures for bone cancer.
Calculating life expectancy is a sensitive process and should be backed by efficient bone cancer diagnosis. Often family doctors or orthopedists fail to make an accurate diagnosis of bone cancer. Malignant tumors related to bone cancer are often detected late as they lie deep within the bone structure. The doctor may not see any outward visible signs like lumps on the body. Also the initial symptoms of bone cancer are usually limited to pain in the affected areas. In such cases, a pathologist's opinion needs to be taken to rule out possibilities of other diseases. Based on the pathology reports, a doctor may advise deeper tests such as X-rays to determine the exact nature of the ailment.
Some common tests for diagnosis of bone cancer are X-ray, MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, blood tests, alkaline phosphatase tests, bone lesion biopsy and bone scans.
X-Ray: This is the most common test to detect presence of bone tumors and bone deformities. It uses electromagnetic radiation to obtain a picture of the affected organs. X-Rays give an accurate image of most hard substances like bones.
Fluoroscopic x-ray or barium sallow x-ray is done by injecting contrast materials like barium salts. These enable observation of soft tissues along with the bone structure. X-ray procedures are quite simple. For pregnant women or in certain disorders, the doctors may ask you to wear a protective covering on parts that are not x-rayed. During x-ray examination, one is required not to wear or keep any hard objects like metallic keys on the body.
X-ray diagnosis will show any abnormalities like bone tumors, fractures, signs of degeneration and any bone deformities along with presence of hardened tumors. It can also predict and rule out conditions such as Paget's disease, rickets, osteomyelitis and multiple myeloma
Alkaline phosphatase tests: These tests measure the presence of alkaline phosphatase enzyme in the blood. Alkaline phosphatase is found in bones, bile, kidney and liver. This requires taking a blood sample from your body. For this, blood is taken out using an injection from your arm or the elbow region. Before the procedure, the skin is disinfected using alcohol and a small puncture is made using the needle. Once blood is taken, it is again disinfected and the puncture site is closed using a cotton swab.
Presence of high alkaline phosphatase levels (normal level is 44 to 147 IU/L or international units per liter) indicate conditions such as anemia, bone diseases, bone, osteoblastic bone cancers and other bone disorders.
Bone lesion biopsy: Bone lesion biopsy requires a small piece of bone or surrounding area of the bone and bone marrow to detect cancer. This is a slightly more complicated procedure than x-rays or blood tests. The patient is given a local anesthesia. An extremely small incision is cut into the skin. A special needle is pushed into the bone structure and a sample of the bone is pulled out. The sample is analyzed using microscopic techniques for presence of cancerous cells or bone deformities due to cancer.
A normal bone structure is dense and consists of multiple layers known as lamellae. Cancellous bone is porous and contains red and yellow marrow
Bone lesion biopsy can easily distinguish non cancerous and cancerous cells. Bone lesion biopsy can help identify conditions such as fibroma, osteosarcoma, osteoblastoma, Ewing's sarcoma, osteoid osteoma and multiple myeloma. Although, this process has being perfected over the years, there is still a possibility of swelling, infections, discomfort and pain during or after the biopsy.
Bone scan: Bone scan is also known as bone scintigraphy. This is an imaging technique similar to MRI scan. However, it uses nuclear scanning for obtaining images. The person is injected with very small quantities of radioactive material like
Technetium-medronic-acid. It acts as radiotracer. Presence and difference of the material immediately after injecting and a few hours after injecting is detected. The radiotracer presence in higher quantities in the images shows possibilities of diseases.
The primary difference between MRI and bone scan is that bone scan can predict bone metabolism. It can be used to detect metastatic bone diseases. It is, especially, useful for detecting bone tumor or cancer, bone infections, bone fractures and it can accurately pin point bone cancers occurring due to cancer of lungs, breast, thyroid, prostrate and kidney
Besides, these tests blood tests like complete blood count, full blood count, MRI and CT scans can give your doctor a clear picture of the stage of the bone cancer.
Bone cancer diagnosis, thus, can accurately pinpoint presence of bone cancer. It can help in further treatment and save you from a fatal disease.