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Osteoblastoma is a rare type of bone disorder where growth of new bone increases, creating a deposit of new bone where one was not present before. It is similar in nature to osteoid osteoma, another condition where smaller depositions of bone are formed, and is most common in men, usually onsetting around the age of 17. This condition is generally benign, although the growth of bone can cause health problems, and it can be treated using a number of means.
A patient with osteoblastoma usually experiences pain and swelling at the site of the bone growth, sometimes for an extended period of time. The pain can increase with activity and tends to persist while the patient is resting. Growths commonly develop on the spine, femur, and tibia. With spinal growths, sometimes neurological symptoms like tremors, numbness, and tingling occur because of pressure on the spinal cord.
Medical imaging studies should show a “hot spot” around the bone, indicating the rapid buildup of new bone. Surgery can be used to remove the excess growth and plane the underlying bone smooth again. Some patients may also be advised to undergo radiation therapy to prevent rogue cells from returning and creating another osteoblastoma tumor. Some forms of this condition are believed to be aggressive and will return after treatment, potentially creating a lifelong problem.
Left untreated, osteoblastoma can cause problems for patients. Spinal tumors may create lesions in the spinal cord, leading to an array of neurological symptoms, depending on the size and location of the tumor. High pressure on the spinal cord can cause significant pain for the patient and may impair her ability to walk and perform other tasks. The growing lesion could also potentially rupture the skin if allowed to get large enough, exposing patients to the risk of infection. Patients will also experience inflammation, pain, and swelling around the abnormal growth, and this can lead to a decline in quality of life.
Care for osteoblastoma can involve an orthopedic surgeon, a doctor who specializes in bone disorders, and may include an oncologist. Oncologists specialize in cancers and are familiar with guidelines for radiation therapy and the management of conditions where uncontrolled cell growth is present. Patients should be advised that being sent to an oncologist does not necessarily mean a growth is malignant; the doctor could have the expertise to perform further diagnostic evaluations or supervise treatments for entirely benign growths.