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Fibrosarcoma in Dogs (Bone)

By: Dr. Jeffrey Philibert

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Fibrosarcoma is an uncommon type of cancer to affect the bone. They arise as masses in the mouth more commonly than in the legs. They are often very difficult to distinguish from the more common bone cancer osteosarcoma when small biopsy samples are evaluated. Understandably, this is an important distinction as treatment and prognosis vary drastically for these two cancers. It often requires a larger sample of the tumor to be submitted for a pathologist to make this determination.

Related Symptoms or Diseases

  • Lameness. This is a general term used to describe pain or discomfort experienced by your pet when moving normally or during minimal exercise. It can be due to arthritis, ligament or tendon tears, or injury to the cartilage cushioning between bones in the joints. These are generally orthopedic injuries that can be corrected with rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and surgery in select conditions. Lameness however is a cardinal sign of fibrosarcoma and warrants further investigation if your pet is experiencing lameness for which a cause cannot be determined.

  • Fractures. Broken bones are often the result of trauma, but fractures can also occur in bones that have been weakened by cancer. These are called pathologic fractures. Sometimes it is difficult to see the cancer on an X-ray, but it can be the cause of a fracture. If your pet experiences a fracture with minimal trauma, pathologic fracture should be suspected. Your veterinarian should biopsy this type of fracture to determine if cancer is present.

  • Osteomyelitis. An infection in the bone is an uncommon disease that occurs as a result of infectious organisms, such as bacteria or fungi, getting into a bone. This most commonly occurs though an open wound, an open fracture or very uncommonly through a blood borne infection. Osteomyelitis has as a proliferative (fuzzy) mass-like lesion on an X-ray and a biopsy and culture needs to be performed to confirm the presence of infection. This is important, as a rule-out for bone cancer can also have a proliferative appearance on X-rays.

  • Bone infarction. This is a very rare condition in which a blood clot blocks the supply of blood to a bone resulting in death of the bone. This appears as a lytic lesion (loss of bone) on an X-ray, which is an appearance that bone cancer can have as well.

  • Other cancers that affect bone. Other types of cancers arise from the tissues associated with the bone and can mimic fibrosarcoma. These include chondrosarcoma (cancer that arises from cartilage), osteosarcoma (cancer that arises from the bone itself), synovial cell sarcoma (cancer that arises from the cells that line the joints), and hemangiosarcoma (cancer that arises from the blood vessels). Except for fibrosarcoma, these cancers are far less common.

    Very rarely a bone cancer could be due to the metastasis (spread) of cancer from a primary cancer elsewhere in your pet. The most common types of cancer that spread to bone are mammary gland cancer, prostate cancer, urinary bladder cancer, multiple myeloma and lymphosarcoma. These cancers tend to have a distinctively different appearance on X-rays that tips off their presence but still require a biopsy to definitively diagnose them. It is important to distinguish this latter group of metastatic cancers to bone, as the approach to treatment is much different and involves finding out where the primary cancer is in the body.

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