Bone Cancer (cont.)
Bone Cancer Diagnosis
Your physician will likely begin with a complete medical history, family
history, and physical examination. The purpose of the medical and family history
is to determine how your symptoms developed and how they have changed over time.
These clues can help your physician diagnose bone cancer versus some other
potential cause of your symptoms. The physical examination will evaluate the
area of pain or mass, and check your strength, sensation, and reflexes.
Certain blood tests may be ordered that can help with the diagnosis. Alkaline
phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase are often elevated in the blood of
patients with osteosarcoma and Ewing's sarcoma.
Next, the physician will likely order some imaging study of the affected
bone. Plain X-rays or radiographs can often identify abnormalities in the bones
and provide information on the shape, size, and location of the tumor.
can also look for possible fractures and asses the risk of future fracture. A
bone scan involves injecting a small amount of a radioactive material into the
blood that collects in the bones.
- The bone scan can identify areas of
increased bone activity that can occur with fracture, growth, and tumors. It can
be used to localize a bone cancer and look for other areas of involvement.
computed tomography (CT) scan can provide a three-dimensional picture of the
bones that can provide a better view of the cancer.
- A magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) scan may be ordered to evaluate the soft tissues or bones involved
by a cancer.
- A positron emission tomography (PET) scan involves injecting a
small amount of radioactive glucose into the bloodstream and scanning the entire
body to look for other areas of increased bone activity. This scan can often be
combined with the CT scan for improved detail.
After an abnormality has been identified in the bone, your physician may want
to obtain a biopsy of the bone. This involves taking a small piece of the bone
that can be studied by a pathologist to determine what type of cancer is
present. Depending on the location of the cancer, the biopsy may be obtained in
the office with a small needle or may need to be obtained in the operating room
by a surgeon.
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