Osteosarcoma of the upper jaw in 10-year-old boy
Sarcomas are relatively rare tumors in humans, formed from mesenchymal cells, rather than epithelial (surface) cells. Epithelial cell tumors are called “carcinomas”. Since sarcomas are relatively uncommon, but hard tumors or cysts on the bones are not, patients are often misdiagnosed at first.
In children, osteosarcomas (sarcomas of the bone) comprise approximately 2.4% of cancer cases. Most of these tumors occur in the leg bones, but around 8% originate in the jaw. The standard treatment of osteosarcoma is resection of the affected bone - that is, removal of the tumorous section, and joining together the two sections of bone on either side of the removed area. If the tumor has spread or the bone is too overtaken by it, amputation of the limb is called for. Obviously, you can’t amputate the face, but detection of facial tumors is often much less delayed than in the leg, and the removal and resection of the jaw bone is usually possible.
Five-year survival rates of pediatric osteosarcoma are still one of the lowest of all the childhood cancers, at an average of 68% across all the different manifestations. However, given that the survival rate was hovering around 5-10% at the beginning of the 20th century (and that’s being generous), we’ve come a long way. Early detection and eliminating misdiagnoses of leg tumors is critical to survival in all age groups.
Tumors of the Jaws. Charles Locke Scudder, 1912.