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Osteosarcoma: Risks, Symptoms and History

Osteosarcoma  patients

A disease with over 1.7 million years

The oldest description of a cancer diagnosis comes from Ancient Egypt and dates back to about 1600 BC. It comes from what is called the Edwin Smith Papyrus, which was probably used as a manual of military surgery back then. The importance of this document is endless, it represents the first description of a disease with a rational and scientific approach that we know of. 

But this is not the first evidence of cancer. A fossil of a 1.7 million years old human ancestor, found in a cave in South Africa, appeared to have carved into his toe bone the cancer that probably led to his death. We can still come back 240 million years ago. A fossil of a Pappochelys rosinae, a shell-less, extinct ancestor of modern turtles, found in Germany in 2015, shows a pattern that we are very familiar with today: cancer growing from its bones. 

What is Osteosarcoma?

The diagnosis for both fossils came with a delay: Osteosarcoma. The most common of the bone cancers. This is the best evidence that cancer has been on earth before the first human being. It clearly shows a reality that sometimes is hard to acknowledge: cancer is intrinsic to life. Life is change and cancer is the disease of change. 

Symptoms of Osteosarcoma

Since July is Bone Cancer Awareness Month let's remember the signs and symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Bone pain or tenderness.

  • A mass or lump (tumor) that is warm and might be felt through your skin.

  • Swelling and redness at the site of your tumor.

  • Increased pain with lifting (if it affects your arm).

  • Limping (if it affects your leg).

  • Limited movement (if it affects a joint).

  • Unexplained fever.

  • Broken bone (sometimes this happens after a simple movement).

Risk factors of Osteosarcoma

Even though primary bone cancer is very rare, and it is much more likely that it is something else that is causing these symptoms we must be at least aware. The causes are uncertain. We know that radiation therapy and chemotherapy for other cancers can lead to the later development of bone cancer. Also, some genetic syndromes are tied to higher bone cancer risk, such as bloom syndrome, hereditary retinoblastoma, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, multiple osteochondromas, Rothmund-Thomson syndrome II, tuberous sclerosis, and chordoma werner syndrome. If you have a history of one of these diseases running in your family, genetic testing might be helpful. 

Written by Luis Guilherme


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