- Understanding Bone Marrow Cancer

Understanding Bone Marrow Cancer

Understanding bone marrow cancer first requires an understanding of what, exactly, bone marrow is and its importance within our bodies. Bone marrow refers to the soft and spongy tissue that can be found in the centre of most bones. This spongy marrow contains “immature” blood forming cells called “stem cells” – a commonly heard name as of late in the nears. Blood stem cells, being very much in a nascent form, can develop in one of three ways – into white blood cells which go on to fight infections, red blood cells that will carry oxygen through the body, or platelets which aid the blood clotting process. Bone marrow cancer occurs when uncontrolled mutations occur within cells located in these blood production areas of our bodies, causing uncontrolled growths known as tumors to develop.


There are also different types of marrow cancer, with most cases originating from cancer that has spread to the bone from some other organ. This type is called “secondary bone cancer”, and when this type of cancer is viewed under a microscope it will resemble the tissue from whence it came – whether this be lung, prostate, or some other cancerous growth. Primary bone cancer occurs when the cancer forms in the very cells of the bone itself. This includes such types of cancer as as osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma.


Other types of cancer that originate in the blood forming sections of bone marrow are lymphomas that tend to originate in the lymph nodes, leukaemia which occurs when the bone marrow develops abnormal or mutated white blood cells, and multiple myeloma – a cancer that spreads from the plasma of the marrow.


The principle symptoms of bone cancer might include fever, loss of appetite, tiredness and weight loss, although actual symptoms may well vary from person to person. Symptoms can be very subtle, and as a result the patient may well not present to a health care professional until the cancer itself has spread. Other associated symptoms might include a hard lump situated on the bone, pain, bone tenderness, stiffness or swelling, restricted movement and wheezing breath as well as a general lowered resistance to other infections. It is also important to remember that any symptoms may well vary depending on where exactly the cancer is located and how big it is. Also, the aforementioned symptoms may not necessarily mean that a patient presenting some of them actually has cancer and a thorough examination from a specialist should be sought by a concerned patient.


With regards to treatments for bone cancer several things should be kept in mind. Among them are the age of the patient, the stage the cancer is at and the patient’s overall health during the beginning of the treatment. All of these factors will help to decide which treatment will be best for the patient. Options might include surgery, a bone marrow transplant, IMRT and chemotherapy. Complementary therapies including nutrition therapy and spiritual counseling are also common practices today. Each specific type of treatment should generally be determined by a healthcare professional as appropriate.