Osteosarcoma: Part One | How did it happen?

Childhood Cancer Awareness | Gold ribbon

For general information about Osteosarcoma in Children, please read: https://www.childrenwithcancer.org.uk/childhood-cancer-info/cancer-types/osteosarcoma/

My son had an extremely RARE case, so I would like to reassure other parents that it isn’t 100% going to happen to their child, but it is a possibility if your child has high dose radiotherapy.

Although Childhood Cancer is still terribly underfunded, some progress has been made since my son was treated for Rhabdomyosarcoma in 2006. When he was treated, we did not have the option of Proton Beam Therapy and so if we wanted to save his life, we had to give permission for radiotherapy. I do not know enough about Proton to say whether it is offered in every case, but I do know that, at the time of writing this, most families would have to go outside of the UK in order to have receive it. This is expensive and many families have to raise their own funds to finance this.

As I said then, my son received radiotherapy to his head and neck area as part of his treatment for his Rhabdomyosarcoma. The radiotherapy is targeted very precisely at the tumour but there would have been some radiation to the surrounding tissue as well. We would have been warned about this at the time, but it is one of those situations where you have to weigh up all the odds. I also do not recall specifically bone cancer being mentioned. I do remember being told that part of his brain would be in the path of the radiation and this would include his pituitary gland, possibly affecting his growth.

My son was thoroughly tested for all sorts of hormonal deficiencies following his treatment for Rhabdomyosarcoma, and it seemed that he was doing ok. He continued to recover and most of his problems seemed to be to do with damage to his teeth. I suppose the warning signs should have been right there, but poor dentition was a common late side effect talked about a lot amongst fellow cancer families, so it did not ring alarm bells.

The new tumour was diagnosed eight years after his first diagnosis. Before we got the results of the biopsy, my natural assumption was that it was a relapse of the Rhabdomyosarcoma. My son had a lump on his cheek, but I did not know it was swelling of his jaw.

Somehow, finding out that this new cancer was a completely different type of cancer, and that it was CAUSED DIRECTLY BY THE TREATMENT WHICH HAD SAVED HIS LIFE BEFORE was so much more difficult to take in than the prospect of the Rhabdomyosarcoma returning.


To be continued …

Marie-Céline

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