14-Year-Old Will Have His Leg Amputated
- Alex Perry of Boardman, Ohio noticed his ankle was hurting him during gym class. His gym teacher thought it was shin splints, and his parents thought it was likely just a twisted ankle.
- When the pain didn’t go away, Perry underwent testing and was diagnosed with a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. It was stage 3 and had already spread to his lungs.
- Chemotherapy killed the cancer in Perry’s lungs, but the disease ate away a significant part of his bone and he will still have to have one of his legs amputated.
In November, Perry was diagnosed with a bone cancer called osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer, and it is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed among young people. Every year, about 400 people younger than 20-years-old are diagnosed with the disease.Read More
The Perry family was feeling optimistic about their move until Alex came home from school complaining of ankle pain. They had no way of knowing the life-changing news that was right in front of them. “It was hurting really bad,” Perry said. “I realized it during gym when we had to do a one mile run. My gym teacher said it was a shin splint. We thought it would go away soon but it didn’t.”
Alex’s parents dismissed the issue as the kind of minor injury children get. But after weeks, the pain still hadn’t gone away. “I looked at his ankle, it was really swollen, the tips of his toes were starting to twitch,” Alex’s father said.
At just 14, Perry was diagnosed with stage three aggressive bone cancer. “At first, we were pretty scared. They also told us it had moved into his lungs,” Perry’s father said. But after going through chemotherapy, there was no evidence of cancer in his lungs.
The cancer had eaten away 80% of the bone in the teenager’s ankle and he will have to have his leg amputated, but he’s facing the surgery with remarkable bravery. “I know after a certain thing happens, I’m going to be completely fine,” he said. “I’m not worried at all about the future.”
The main symptom of sarcoma is a slow-growing, painless mass, which makes it hard for many to detect until the later stages of the disease.
“Unfortunately, most sarcomas do not cause many of the symptoms that may be associated with other cancers,” Dr. Dale Shepard, director of the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute Phase I and Sarcoma Programs, previously told SurvivorNet.
Shepard explained that this often leads to large tumors at the time of diagnosis.
“Soft tissue sarcomas are typically painless,” Dr. Shepard explained. “Bone sarcomas may be mistaken for orthopedic injuries. A mass the size of a golf ball or larger and growing should be evaluated as a potential sarcoma. Patients who do have symptoms mustn’t be dismissive of them.”
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Types of Sarcomas
The word sarcoma refers to a large array of bone and soft tissue cancers, and those are then further broken down into more specific forms of the disease, including:
A cancer that typically occurs in and around the bones, often in the arms or legs, or the bones of the pelvis. It most commonly occurs in children and young adults.
A very rare type of cancer that causes lesions on the skin, in lymph nodes, organs, and the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and throat. It typically affects people with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV.
A soft tissue cancer that grows slowly. It is likely to begin under the skin of areas like the finger, hand, forearm, lower part of the leg, or foot.
Also known as a malignant (cancerous) synovioma, this is a cancer that can form soft tissues such as muscle or ligaments, commonly close to joints or in areas like the arm, leg, or foot.
Also known as osteosarcoma, this cancer forms in the bone and is most common in young children.
Spindle cell sarcoma
A rare form of the disease that accounts for less than 2% of all primary bone cancer cases. It’s most common in adults over 40 and often forms in the bones of the arms, legs, and pelvis.
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Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff