Stages of childhood bone cancer

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Staging describes or classifies a cancer based on how much cancer there is in the body and where it is when first diagnosed. This is often called the extent of cancer. Information from tests is used to find out the size of the tumour, which parts of the body have cancer, whether the cancer has spread from where it first started and where the cancer has spread. The healthcare team uses the stage to plan treatment and estimate the outcome (the prognosis).

Staging systems

There are different staging systems used to stage bone cancer. The main staging system used for childhood bone cancer is the simple staging system.

Simple childhood bone cancer stages

Doctors often use a simple system that describes bone cancers either as localized or metastatic. It is used for both osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.

Localized bone cancer is only in the bone that it started in and tissues next to the bone, such as muscle, tendons or fat.

Metastatic bone cancer has spread to other parts of the body farther from the primary tumour where the cancer started. For example, it may have spread to the lungs or other bones not directly connected to the bone where the tumour started. The most common place for bone cancer to spread to is the lungs.

Recurrent bone cancer

Recurrent bone cancer means that the cancer has come back after it has been treated. If it comes back in the same place that the cancer first started, it’s called local recurrence. If it comes back in tissues or lymph nodes close to the primary tumour, it’s called regional recurrence. When it comes back in another part of the body, it is called metastatic bone cancer.

Expert review and references

  • Abha Gupta, MD, MSc, FRCPC
  • Raveena Ramphal, MBChB, FRACP