Bone marrow is the tissue found in the center of the bone. This soft tissue contains stem cells that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. White blood cells help to fight off infection in the body and platelets help the blood to clot. Bone marrow cancer is cancer that forms in these blood-forming cells in the bones. Most reported cases of this cancer stem from another type of cancer that spreads from another organ into the bone marrow. These cancers are considered to be secondary bone cancer cases. Primary bone cancer forms in the cells of the bones. Primary bone cancer includes Ewing’s Sarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, chondrosarcoma and osteosarcoma.
Osteosarcoma is a malignant tumor of the bone. This is the most common type of primary bone cancer. Chondrosarcoma is a cancer that develops directly in the cartilage cells of the bone. Ewing’s Sarcoma includes tumors that form in the bone’s cavity typically in longer bones such as those found in the arms and legs. Malignant fibrous histiocytoma or MFH typically occurs in the softer tissues of the bones such as the tendons, muscles, fat and ligaments.
Bone marrow cancers that begin in the cells of the bone marrow include leukemia, lymphomas and multiple myeloma. Leukemia is a cancer in which bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells. Lymphomas are cancers that typically begin in the lymph nodes although these cancers can often start in the bone marrow. Multiple myelomas are cancers that develop in the bone marrow from the plasma cells.
Bone marrow cancers typically develop in the shafts of longer bones. The first signs of bone marrow cancer will typically vary depending on the patient. Symptoms of the disease typically include fatigue, fever, a decreased appetite and significant weight loss. It is important to note however that these earlier symptoms are often so subtle that a patient may not notice them. This results in many patients going undiagnosed until the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
Other symptoms of bone marrow cancer typically include a lump on the affected bone, pain, tenderness in the bone, swelling and stiffness in the bone, movement restrictions, anemia or low red blood cell count, a decreased resistance to infection, fractures without injury, exertion or other explanation and weakness or shortness of breath. Dizziness may also be noted in patients with bone marrow disease. Again, these symptoms may not all be present depending on the severity or stage of the cancer and on the specific patient. The symptoms may also vary depending on the size of the cancer or tumor and the location.
It is important to understand that symptoms of bone marrow cancer are very similar to symptoms of other diseases and medical conditions. A symptom may not necessarily mean that the patient has cancer. A doctor will need to do numerous tests and examinations to determine a diagnosis of bone marrow cancer.
Treatment for bone marrow cancer will also vary depending on the severity of the disease and the patient. There are many treatment options for bone marrow cancer and choosing the best one for each patient depends on the age of the patient, the stage of the cancer and the patient’s general health. Bone marrow transplants are a very common form of treatment for bone marrow cancer. This involves replacing diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow typically from a donor that is closely related to the patient. Leukemia and lymphoma are the most common types of bone cancers that often require bone marrow transplants for treatment.
Bone marrow transplants may also include taking bone marrow from the patient before chemotherapy or syngeneic bone marrow transplantation which involves taking the bone marrow of an identical twin. The specific bone marrow transplant method will depend on many factors including the patient and the stage of the cancer.