BACKGROUND: An expandable metal bone is implanted in the legs of young cancer patients so that the prosthetic bone grows with the child.
HOW IT WORKS: An orthopedic oncologist is implanting an expandable bone prosthesis in a seven-year-old cancer patient who will have part of his bone removed after treatment. In the past ten years, doctors have used ultrasound and expanding plastics to lengthen bone prostheses, but the bone cement (similar to the kind used for denture work) needed to attach the prosthesis has created irreversible damage. This is a new combination procedure that, instead of bone cement, uses a spring mechanism and allows the surgeon to adjust the length of the bone by inserting a telescope guided pin through a small incision in the leg as the child growths.
CHILDHOOD CANCERS: The most common form of cancer in children is childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL. Lymphocytes, a type of cell that helps fight infection, develops in bone marrow. If the lymphocytes grow too quickly and do not fully mature, the child has ALL. It can cause anemia, easy bruising or bleeding and swollen lymph nodes. Doctors use a blood test to count the numbers of different types of blood cells – too many white blood cells can indicate leukemia.
A RARE DISEASE: In the United States in 2005, approximately 9,510 children under age 15 will be diagnosed with cancer. But cancer is still relatively rare in this age group with, on average, 1 to 2 children developing the disease each year for every 10,000 children in the United States.
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