Osteosarcoma: this way this bone cancer affects children and adolescents

Yesterday the former soccer player and former national coach, Luis Enrique, communicated on his Twitter account that his daughter, Xana, only nine years old, had died from an osteosarcoma (also called osteogenic sarcoma), bone cancer against the one who had been fighting for five months.

But What exactly is osteosarcoma? How does this bone cancer affect children and adolescents? We tell you everything there is to know about this rare form of bone tumor, whose first symptoms can be confused with growing pains.

What is an osteosarcoma?

This name is known to the tumor disease that destroys the cells of the bone tissue and weakens it. It originates in the most immature bone cells that are those that generate new bone (osteoblasts), so they tend to affect children who are experiencing the stretch of adolescence.

According to Kids Health, disseminator of the American Nemours Foundation, Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer, and accounts for approximately 3% of childhood cancers.

It is one of the few cancers that begin to develop in the bones and sometimes extends to other parts of the body, such as the lungs and other bones.

It can appear in any bone of the human body, but it is much more frequent in the bony parts near the knee joint, such as the distal end of the femur and the proximal tibia. And also near the shoulder joint.

Most frequent symptoms of bone cancer

The American Foundation warns that parents should check with the doctor if the child has any of these symptoms:

  • Start limping inexplicably. The tumor may hinder the movement of the nearest joint, such as the knee.

  • Complains of pain, which increases after physical exercise or at night, in the knee or shoulder.

  • If the pain wakes the child repeatedly at night or hurts at rest.

  • A lump or swelling appears in the affected area until several weeks after the pain begins, as the tumor, growing, invades the tissues surrounding the bone and weakens it.

  • If you suffer minor trauma. In some cases, the first sign of the disease is a broken arm or leg, which occurs because the cancer has weakened the bone and made it more vulnerable to breakage.

Risk factor's

According to, osteosarcoma usually appears "sporadically and has no relationship with other diseases in the patient or in the family."

If it is true that children who suffer from it tend to be tall for their age, which suggests that rapid bone growth favors the development of this disease.

There is also no genetic explanation, except in the case of children with a family history of retinoblastoma (an eye tumor) that do have a higher risk of suffering from this bone cancer.

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. In addition, the AECC also notes that the person who has followed a treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy that includes radiation in some bone, is more at risk of developing osteosarcoma in that place.

And it also affects adolescents more, due to bone growth, with a higher incidence in boys than in girls.

Most osteosarcomas arise from random and unpredictable errors in the bone cell DNA in the process of growth during periods of intense bone growth.


According to Kids Health, to diagnose a bone tumor, the doctor:

  • He will request x-rays to detect any type of change in bone structure.

  • It will ask for an MRI of the affected area to find the best area to take a biopsy and will indicate if the osteosarcoma has spread from the bone to the muscles and to the surrounding adipose tissue (fat). The biopsy can be obtained by cutting or scraping a small fragment of the affected tissue (by general anesthesia) or by extracting the sample by needle and syringe (with local).

  • If an osteosarcoma is diagnosed, he will do a CT scan of the chest, a bone scan and sometimes additional MRIs. These tests will be repeated once the treatment is started, to follow the evolution of the cancer.

Bone Tumor Treatment

According to the American Foundation there is no effective way to prevent this type of cancer, although With proper diagnosis and treatment, between 60 and 80 percent of children with osteosarcoma recover.

The way to attack this bone tumor includes the chemotherapy intravenously, which enters the bloodstream to destroy cancer cells and reduce cancer. Then, surgery is performed, in order to remove the tumor or tumors and more chemotherapy to end the malignant cells that have been able to resist or minimize the chances of reoccurrence.

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A child with osteosarcoma in an arm or leg usually has a better prognosis, since it is usually treated with a rescue surgery instead of amputation. It involves removing the affected bone and muscle. The remaining hole is usually filled with a special metal prosthesis or, sometimes, with a bone graft (which usually comes from a bone bank).

When the disease already affects the ribs, the shoulder blades, the spine or the bones of the pelvis, it is more difficult to treat.

The Nemours Foundation also notes that "The role of certain growth factors in the development of osteosarcoma is being investigated. These studies may allow the development of new drugs that slow down these growth factors as a cancer treatment."

Without a doubt, a door to hope for those children and adolescents who may be affected by this bone tumor.

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Meanwhile, we are left with the beautiful words of Luis Enrique to his daughter Xana on his twitter account:

"We will miss you a lot but we will remember you every day of our lives in the hope that in the future we will meet again. You will be the star that guides our family. Rest Xanita."


- LUISENRIQUE (@ LUISENRIQUE21) August 29, 2019

Photos | iStock

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