Dr. Templeton explains how bone cancer is diagnosed in a patient.
Read the full transcript »
How Bone Cancer is Diagnosed Typically, someone with bone cancer will have, start off with having pain. It may be pain that starts out after an injury or it may be pain that starts up on its own. Although, pain from injury usually gets better, bone cancer pain typically doesn’t. Bone cancer pain typically will get to the point where it hurts all the time even to the point that someone wakes up at night from sleep because they are in pain. Because that bone cancer gets into the bone, it weakens the bone, it makes it hurt, it makes it more likely to break. So, although patients are hurting all the time, they can actually hurt more as they become more active. So that’s the first thing that will happen is that people have pain, the pain doesn’t get better, they then will seek medical advice at that point. After talking with the patient and getting this kind of history of progressive pain, especially the pain that wakes them up at night, the next step would be a physical exam to see if you can feel any lumps or bumps along the area of bone or swelling or warmth or anything that might go along with the bone cancer. The next step would be then to get just regular x-rays to look at the bone. Typically, if you have a cancer that’s in the bone, you can see where areas of the bone are being destroyed. It might be that it’s so early that you don’t see much on x-ray, but typically you will see something. If something is picked up, the next step then is to get additional x-ray studies, whether it’s a CAT scan or MRI or bone scan, something to get a better look at the bone. After that, if after talking with the patient and examining them and you get the x-rays and it looks like this may be a bone cancer, the next step is to do a biopsy, and that means taking a piece of the tissue out of the bone to look at under the microscope so you can make an exact diagnosis and know what the next step is in treatment.