How to Diagnose Bone Cancer

blankBone cancer is a type of cancer where your bone cells become victims of overgrowth and reach a point of no control. Common signs and symptoms of bone cancer include lumps, swelling and trouble moving the target area. Just like many other cancers, early diagnosis is the only way to treat your bone cancer effectively.

In order to be prepared, it’s important you understand the different methods used to diagnose bone cancer. This way, you know what to expect when going to get tested.

Diagnosing Bone Cancer


X-ray is a common technique used to produce visuals of parts of the body from the inside. It’s also a very useful way to see and examine the bones. It works by showing you any signs of abnormal growth on the bones and helps you determine if your symptoms result from something other than cancer. Therefore, getting an x-ray from a reliable facility is extremely important to determine what course to take next.


If the results from an x-ray are not definite, professionals often recommend getting a biopsy done. The procedure involves taking out a sample of your bone and forwarding it for testing to a laboratory. Typically, there are two ways to carry it out:

  • Open: This type of biopsy involves administering a general anaesthetic. This is because the invasiveness of the procedure can cause pain. A surgeon cuts a tiny piece of your bone to use it as a sample. It’s often conducted if the results from a core needle biopsy are unclear.
  • Core needle: This type of biopsy is also performed using a certain anaesthetic. A professional inserts a needle into your bone and takes a sample of the tissue out.

Additional Tests

While an x-ray and biopsy are both effective ways of determining whether the cancer is there, they can’t show how much it has spread. Therefore, some additional tests are conducted to find out how far and wide it has spread.

CT scan

Much like an x-ray, a CT scan also provides visuals of internal organs, except that it’s three-dimensional. This type of scan is usually recommended if your professional suspects that cancer has spread to your lungs.

MRI scan

This type of scan uses radio waves and magnetic fields for even better and detailed quality of pictures to examine your soft tissues and bones. It’s a very effective way to figure out how big the tumour is and how much it has spread in the bones.

Bone marrow biopsy

As the name implies, a bone marrow biopsy is conducted to see if your cancer has reached the bone marrow. The procedure consists of inserting a needle in the bone and taking a small sample of the bone marrow out. Your professional will either use general or local anaesthetic, depending on your condition.

Bone scan

Unlike an x-ray, bone scans give you a better and detailed outlook of the bones from the inside. The procedure is carried out by your professional, who inserts a radioactive substance inside your veins. Upon insertion of the material, if a certain part of the bones absorbs it faster, it appears on the scan as “hotspots.”

What Happens Following the Diagnosis?

Once the diagnosing phase is over, you will most likely have all the information about cancer. This means you will know how much it has spread, and your professional will assign a grade and stage to help you understand the prognosis.

Typically, there are three stages of cancer. Stage 1 suggests that the cancer is in control and hasn’t gone ahead. Stage 2 could mean that the cancer is high-grade but hasn’t spread outside of the bone. Stage 3 often means that the cancer is metastasized and has spread to other parts of the body.

While both initial stages have a better chance of being treated and cured, stage 3 is sometimes beyond a cure because treatment can only relieve your symptoms to an extent.

The Bottom Line

In the end, regardless of the type, cancer can cause extreme distress and pain to an individual. Coping with the knowledge that you have a potentially life-threatening disease is not easy. It can be scary and depressing, no matter how old or young you are.

However, there are ways to cope and deal with feelings of anxiety and helplessness. There have been several instances of patients recovering after prolonged treatment, and there’s no reason one should give up. Seeking therapy after speaking to a professional is one way to help you deal with your mental health throughout your treatment.