What Does Bone Cancer Feel Like
Medically Reviewed by: Dr. BautistaUpdated on: April 16, 2020
Our bones are our bodys support system. They protect our organs, help us move, and provide a place for our bone marrow which creates our blood cells. Theyre an essential framework of our anatomy and when they arent working properly, we can feel it.
Perhaps youve noticed a persistent pain near your knee or an ache in your shoulder and have found yourself wondering what does bone cancer feel like?
Whether your pain is brought on by a fracture, an infection, or potential bone cancer, lets cover the basics and the details, so you can familiarize yourself with the unknown. In our guide, well talk about what bone cancer feels like, the specific types of pain, and where youll feel them based on different benign bone tumors and malignant bone tumors.;
Remember, pain in the bones doesnt always signify primary bone cancer, but becoming familiar with cancer symptoms and signs can help with early detection so you can begin your alternative cancer treatment for bone cancer as soon as possible and reduce additional risk factors.;
Laboratory Radiographic And Other Tests That Are Likely To Be Useful In Diagnosing The Cause Of This Problem
Initiation evaluation of acute joint symptoms should be done after a careful history and physical exam. Panels are not recommended as this increases the frequency of finding positive results unrelated to the disease.
Complete blood count , renal function, liver function, and urine tests should be ordered if a multisystem disease is suspected. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein are markers of inflammation; CRP can be used to monitor response to treatment. If there is associated weakness and muscle pain then creatinine phosphokinase should be ordered to evaluate for myositis.
Whenever possible a joint aspiration and examination of the joint fluid is essential to the diagnosis. Four elements help with this.
Negatively birefringent: gout.
Positive birefringent: CPPD.
Gram stain can be highly specific for septic arthritis but its sensitivity is much less .
Culture: aerobic and anaerobic cultures as well as special studies for gonococci, tuberculous or fungi as indicated. Consider sites to culture based on patient history.
Ordering chemistry studies of synovial fluid should be discouraged because they are likely to provide misleading or redundant information.
Other labs are indicated only if there is moderate suspicion for the following disease states as false positives are common:
RA serum rheumatoid factor
SLE antinuclear antibody testing
Symptoms Of Joint Pain
Joint pain can be mild or severe. The pain may last a short time or may be constant for a long time. Symptoms can include:
Pain in a joint with movement or at rest
Limited range of movement
Stiffness after inactivity or during activity
Swelling or tenderness at a joint
Redness or warmth at a joint
Not being able to do everyday activities
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When To See The Doctor
Sure, its tempting to use an online knee pain symptom checker to try to figure out whats causing your pain. The problem is, because joints are complex, knee pain self-diagnosis is very difficult. Like all your joints, your knees are designed to function without pain or stiffness. No amount of pain or stiffness is normal.If you notice any type of discomfort in or around your knee joint, its always a good idea to schedule an office visit with Dr. Van Thiel.
As a leading orthopedic surgeon in Rockford and Crystal Lake, Dr. Van Thiel uses advanced diagnostic methods to make sure you receive the best, most appropriate care for meaningful pain relief. To find out whats causing your knee pain, call OrthoIllinois at 398-9491 or schedule an appointment online today.
Dr. Van Thiel treats patients from all over Wisconsin and Illinois including Rockford, Elgin, Huntley, Dekalb, Crystal Lake, Barrington, McHenry, Beloit and Algonquin.
How Often Will I Have To Attend Follow Up Appointments With My Healthcare Provider
Checking in with your healthcare provider is vital. Theyll have to check periodically for signs of recurrence, treatment complications and metastasis. Initially these visits will be more frequent , and as you get further from treatment they will be spaced out . These visits will likely involve:
- A physical examination.
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How Do I Know If My Cancer Has Spread
Symptoms of metastatic cancer may depend on where in the body the cancer has spread. For instance:
- If the cancer has spread to the bone, symptoms may include joint pain or fractures.
- If the cancer has spread to the brain, symptoms may include headaches, speech difficulties, blurred vision or dizziness.
- If the cancer has spread to the liver, symptoms may include jaundice, and bloating or swelling in the stomach.
- If the cancer has spread to the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath or a persistent cough.
An accurate diagnosis is critical to determining whether your cancer has spread and to developing a personalized treatment plan designed to meet your needs.
A What Is The Differential Diagnosis For This Problem
The two clinical cues most helpful for diagnosis of joint pain are the joint pattern and the presence or absence of extra-articular manifestations.
Joint pattern is defined by three questions:
Start with the number of joints affected .
Monoarticular: gout, calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate deposition disease , trauma, septic arthritis, Lyme disease, osteoarthritis , tumor, and intra-articular derangement.
Oligoarticular : psoriatic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and reactive arthritis.
Polyarticular : rheumatoid arthritis , systemic lupus erythematosus , infectious vasculitis, Stills disease, and polymyositis.
Is there inflammation/synovitis?
Is a classic joint affected?
Distal interphalangeal joints: OA and psoriatic arthritis.
Metacarpophalangeal , wrist: RA and SLE.
First metatarsophalangeal : gout and OA.
Sacroiliac joints: ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis.
Knee: gonococcus, gout and Lyme disease.
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What Causes Pain In People With Cancer
The cancer itself often causes pain. The amount of pain you have depends on different factors, including the type of cancer, its stage , other health problems you may have, and your pain threshold. People with advanced cancer are more likely to have pain.
Cancer surgery, treatments, or tests can also cause pain. You may also have pain that has nothing to do with the cancer or its treatment. Like anyone, you can get headaches, muscle strains, and other aches or pains.
Chemotherapy For Ewing Sarcoma
For Ewing sarcoma, the drugs most often used first are vincristine, ifosfamide, doxorubicin and etoposide. Giving these drugs together is called VIDE. Youll usually have six cycles of VIDE.
After your chemo you may have surgery, or, if the tumour cant be removed with an operation, youll have radiotherapy. Some people have both surgery and radiotherapy. The team looking after you will decide on the best combination for you.
If you have surgery, youll have more chemo afterwards to help stop the tumour coming back or spreading to other parts of the body.
At the moment, there is a clinical trial called Euro-Ewing 2012 that is comparing different combinations of chemotherapy treatments before and after surgery for people with Ewing sarcomas. You can talk to your specialist doctor about whether you could take part in this trial.
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Treating And Managing Joint Pain
When possible, doctors treat the condition that causes the joint pain. They may do this in one of the following ways:
Medication. These medications may treat or reduce joint pain:
Pain relievers including:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen , naproxen , and celecoxib
Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol
Corticosteroids, which reduce swelling and inflammation
Certain anticonvulsants and antidepressants that may block pain signals
Antibiotics, which treat joint infections
Self-care and support methods. Below are methods that may help you better manage joint pain. Some of these practices you can do on your own. Others require you to work with a licensed or certified specialist. Talk with your health care team before trying these methods.
Track the results of the techniques you use to find out which ones best manage your joint pain. You can use a chart like the one in the ASCO Answers Managing Cancer-Related Pain booklet to track your pain.
Whats The Outlook For Osteosarcoma
The outlook depends on many factors, including:
- The size and location of the tumor.
- Whether the cancer has spread to other areas of your body.
- How the tumor responds to treatment.
- The ability of your immune system to fight the cancer.
- Overall health.
- The grade and stage of the tumor.
- The subtype of osteosarcoma.
Because of improvements in chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and control of side effects, more people with osteosarcoma are achieving better results, experiencing full recovery and living longer.
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Pain From Cancer Surgery Treatments And Tests
Surgical pain: Surgery is often part of the treatment for cancers that grow as solid tumors. Depending on the kind of surgery you have, some amount of pain is usually expected and can last from a few days to weeks. Talk to your doctor about pain medicines you may need after surgery so you wont be in pain when your surgery is over. You may need stronger pain medicine at first after surgery, but after a few days or so you should be able to control it with less strong medicines.
Phantom pain: Phantom pain is a longer-lasting effect of surgery, beyond the usual surgical pain. If youve had an arm, leg, or even a breast removed, you may still feel pain or other unusual or unpleasant feelings that seem to be coming from the absent body part. Doctors are not sure why this happens, butphantom painis real; its not all in your head.
No single pain relief method controls phantom pain in all patients all the time. Many methods have been used to treat this type of pain, including pain medicine, physical therapy, antidepressantmedicines, and transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation . If youre having phantom pain, ask your cancer care team what can be done.
Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments: Some treatment side effects cause pain. Pain can even make some people stop treatment if its not managed. Talk to your cancer care team about any changes you notice or any pain you have.
Here are some examples of pain caused by cancer treatment:
Bone Pain And Swelling
Pain at the site of the tumor in the bone is the most common symptom of osteosarcoma. The most common sites for these tumors in younger people are around the knee or in the upper arm, but they can occur in other bones as well. At first, the pain might not be constant and might be worse at night. The pain often increases with activity and might result in a limp if the tumor is in a leg bone.
Swelling in the area is another common symptom, although it might not occur until later. Depending on where the tumor is, it might be possible to feel a lump or mass.
Limb pain and swelling are very common in normal, active children and teens. They are much more likely to be caused by normal bumps and bruises, so they might not prompt a doctor visit right away. This can delay a diagnosis. If your child has these symptoms and they don’t go away within a few weeks , see a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
These symptoms are less common in adults, so they should be a sign to see a doctor even sooner.
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As A Professional Athlete Jamie Whitmore Was Used To Sufferingbut The Pain In Her Leg Was Excruciating She Never Imagined It Could Be A Deadly Cancer
Courtesy Jamie Whitmore
Jamie Whitmore, 43, isnt used to slowing down. The professional triathlete turned Paralympic gold medalist has never met a challenge she couldnt overcome, whether it was a mountain bike raceor cancer.
In 2007, Whitmore was considered a very successful athlete. She was a six-time U.S. champion for XTERRA racing, a two-time European Tour champion, and held a world title. Everything changed during a triathlon that seemed like so many others she had conquered.
I got out of the water and onto my bike and something was off with my left leg, Whitmore says. Once I got off the bike and began the running portion, I was shuffling. It was hard to pick my legs up. I knew something wasnt right. She avoided running for a while, focusing on her other two passionsswimming and biking. I didnt have any symptoms as long as I wasnt running. I took a break from it, but every time I tried again the muscles were super tight and I had a lot of pain in my hamstring. Assuming shed simply pushed herself too hard in the last race, Whitmore shrugged off the pain.
Treatments For Arthralgia Thats Related To Chemotherapy May Include:
- corticosteroids/ Steroids
- narcotics or NSAIDs like Motrin and Tylenol
Cancer survivors are also at risk for long term effects related to chemotherapy, steroid medications, or hormonal therapy, particularly those who are not physically active. Some may even develop thinning of the bones or joint pain.
Cancer survivors can lower their risk of osteoporosis by avoiding tobacco products, eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, participating in regular physical activity, and limiting the amount of alcohol they drink.
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Sarcoma Symptoms To Watch For
Here are the seven most common;sarcoma symptoms:
A Lump or Mass
This is the most common symptom of sarcomas. A noticeable lump forms in the location where the tumor is growing.
A typical mass grows slowly over a period of time and are often painless in the beginning. Over time, or if the lump presses on a nerve or muscle, the lump will start to ache. If the lump isnt painful but continues to grow or if its located deep within an extremity or body cavity, see a doctor.
Many of these lumps are not sarcoma; in most instances, these soft-tissue lumps are made of fat cells and are not cancer. If you have a lump larger than 2 inches, is growing, or is painful, it should be brought to the attention of your doctor.
Once a tumor affects the tissues, pain can be felt in the general area. As the cancer develops, the ache will become more persistent. If the tumor presses against nerves and muscles, it will make the pain more pronounced.
Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in flexible tissues and rarely cause symptoms in the early stages. The tumor pushes normal tissue out of the way while it grows, so it can become quite large before symptoms are noticeable. Location-specific pain can result depending on the location of the sarcoma. A sarcoma in the heart will cause chest pain, in the lungs will cause breathing issues, and in the abdomen can cause digestion issues.
Can Cancer Pain Be Relieved
You should never accept pain as a normal part of having cancer. It’s important to remember that all pain can be treated. Cancer pain may not always be completely relieved, but your doctor can work with you to control and lessen it as much as possible. Knowing how to report and describe it can help your health care team know how to treat it.
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Historical Information Important In The Diagnosis Of This Problem
How many joints are affected?
If more than one did one joint start before another?
Are there other associated symptoms? If not then this is most likely degenerative joint disease, OA or tenosynovitis/bursitis.
Fevers: septic arthritis , gout, RA, Stills, cancer, sarcoid, and mucocutaneous disorders.
Rash: psoriatic arthritis, septic arthritis, adult stills disease, parvovirus B19, and hepatitis B.
Nodules: gout and RA.
Previous surgery/hardware in the joint?
Signs And Symptoms Of Bone Cancer
Bone cancer symptoms vary, and not everyone will feel the same. Many symptoms are similar to everyday aches and pains, so they can be mistaken for other things, like strains, sports injuries or growing pains.
The main symptoms are:
- pain;or tenderness. This may start as an ache that doesnt go away. It may be made worse by exercise or feel worse at night. If bone pain at night doesnt get better, its important to get this checked out by your GP.;
- swelling around the affected area of bone. Swelling may not show up until the tumour is quite large. It isnt always possible to see or feel a lump if the affected bone is deep inside the body.;
- reduced movement. If the bone tumour is near a joint , it can make it harder to move the joint. If its in a leg bone, it may cause a limp. If its in the backbone , it may press on nerves and cause tingling and numbness in the legs or arms.;
- a;broken bone. A bone may break suddenly, or after only a minor fall or accident. This can happen;if the bone has been weakened by cancer.
There might also be other symptoms:
- loss of appetite;
- weight loss
If you have any of these symptoms, or you are worried that you may have a bone tumour, you should get it checked by your GP. They can talk to you about your symptoms, and arrange;tests;if they feel theyre needed.
Remember – most people with the symptoms listed here wont have bone cancer.
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Pain From The Cancer Itself
Pain from the cancer can be caused by a tumor pressing on nerves, bones, or organs.
Spinal cord compression: When a tumor spreads to the spine, it can press on the nerves of the spinal cord. This is called spinal cord compression. The first symptom of spinal cord compression is usually back and/or neck pain, and sometimes it is severe. Pain, numbness, or weakness may also happen in an arm or leg. Coughing, sneezing, or other movements often make the pain worse. If you have this kind of pain, it is considered an emergency and you should get help right away.
Spinal cord compression must be treated right away to keep you from losing control of your bladder or bowel or being paralyzed. If youre treated for the compression soon after the pain begins, you can usually avoid serious outcomes. Treatment for spinal cord compression usually involves radiation therapy to the area where the tumor is pressing on the spine and steroidsto shrink the tumor. Or you may be able to have surgery to remove a tumor thats pressing on the spine, which may then be followed by radiation.
Bone pain can also happen as a side effect of medicines known as growth factor drugs or colony-stimulating factors . These drugs may be given to help prevent white blood cell counts from dropping after treatment. CSF drugs help the body produce more WBCs which are made in the bone marrow. Because the bone marrow activity is higher with these drugs, bone pain may occur.