Michigan Boy Thrives After Beating Bone Cancer
- A young high schooler in Michigan was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in 2015 and today he’s been cancer-free for 5 years.
- He had to have his leg amputated as a result of his cancer.
- Today, he skis down mountains and performs in musicals.
When people at his school say the common good luck theater expression “break a leg,” McGuire – who lost a leg and is now an amputee due to his bone cancer or osteosarcoma – would say, “I beat you to it.” He tells AP, “I’ve said it too many times, and now people just roll their eyes whenever they hear it. But I love doing it. It’s funny.”Read More
“I like to surprise people,” he says. Today, he has been cancer-free from osteosarcoma for over five years. “I try to like look for things that I can do, rather than things that I can’t do,” says McGuire, emphasizing how he stays focused on the positives in life.
Understanding Osteosarcoma & Sarcomas
The term sarcoma is used to describe an array of more than 70 rare cancers that begin in the bones and the soft tissues, such as muscles. This diverse group of diseases accounts for only about one percent of tumors in adults and just over 10 percent of tumors in children.
The main symptom of sarcomas is generally a slow-growing, painless mass, but symptoms can be hard to detect as soft tissue sarcomas are typically painless and bone sarcomas can be mistakenly diagnosed as orthopedic injuries.
“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, tells SurvivorNet. “A mass the size of a golf ball or larger and growing should be evaluated as a potential sarcoma. It’s important that patients who do have symptoms are not dismissive of them.”
Types of Sarcoma Cancers
McGuire battled osteosarcoma. The word sarcoma refers to a large array of bone and soft tissue cancers, and individual cancers within that set go by unique names. Some of the types of sarcomas include:
- Ewing’s sarcoma is 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.
- Kaposi sarcoma is 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.
- Epithelioid sarcoma is a type of 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.
Synovial sarcoma, also called malignant synovioma, 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.
- Osteogenic sarcoma, also called osteosarcoma, is the most common type of cancer that starts in the bones. This is the type of cancer McGuire had.
- Spindle cell sarcoma is very rare, comprising as little as 2 percent of all primary bone cancer cases. It can start in the bone, often in the arms, legs, and pelvis, and usually occurs in people over 40.
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Surgery as a Treatment for Cancer
Surgery, like the kind McGuire had for his osteosarcoma which was an amputation surgery, is a common treatment path for some cancers. Other surgical cancer treatments can include a mastectomy, lumpectomy, or hysterectomy.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Heidi Gray, a gynecologic oncologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, spoke with SurvivorNet about surgery to treat ovarian cancer. She says, “There’s not a lot of preparation. There is the typical – no eating after midnight, and things like that. But most of the time patients are just overnight in the hospital and are able to go home the next day.”
For most women with ovarian cancer, surgery is a part of the treatment plan. In fact, it’s often step one in the treatment plan. Deciding what type of surgery to get is also an important part of the process. Not all women will be eligible to get robotic-assisted surgery, but for those who are, there are clear benefits to going this route.
One of the biggest benefits to robotic-assisted surgery for ovarian cancer is the shorter recovery time. Recovery is typically a bit easier with robotic surgery than it is with others types of procedures — and a lot of that has to do with the types of incisions being made during the surgery. “The benefit from minimally invasive surgery, because the incisions are small, pain is less, infection is less, things like that,” Dr. Gray says.
SurvivorNet reporter Abigail Seaburg contributed to this article.