Does cancer affect the foot?
Posted: Jan 01, 2021
Cancer can affect any part of the body and the foot is no exception. It is, however, rare in the foot but when it does happen getting the diagnosis correct is vital. Cancer is a disease of the cells in different body tissues. A cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled way and then they can damage or invade the surrounding tissues, or spread to other parts of the body, causing further damage.
There are two types of cancer that can affect the foot. One is that a tumour could develop in one of the tissues in the foot. It could be in any tissue on the foot from the skin to the tendons to the joints to the bone. This could be melanoma in the skin or and osteoma in the bone. These are often visible to the eye, if on the skin or to imaging if deeper. The symptoms can vary from the appearance on the skin to pain deep inside the foot. The pain is typically not like the more common causes of foot pain, so can be easy to diagnose. Most of these types of cancers that affect the foot are benign and relatively easy to manage. Occasionally they are not benign and their treatment takes on some urgency if it is malignant.
The other type of cancer that affects the foot is those that are is a metastasis to the foot from a cancer elsewhere in the body such as the lungs or bladder. They send out a seed that implants in other tissues distant from the original cancer, in this case, the foot. Most of the time the existence of the primary cancer is known, but this sign of their spread is serious. Occasionally the foot pain from a metastasis from a distant cancer is the first sign of the cancer, which is often not a good sign, so needs to be urgently further investigated.
This is a clear indication why it is so important get a diagnosis established and right for any cause of foot pain. The chances are that the problem is straightforward, and the diagnosis is not difficult. On that extremely rare occasion that it is a cancer is possibly the cause, the importance of getting the diagnosis correct early on may be the difference between the condition being fatal or not. Podiatrists have a lot of training in foot problems and these rare conditions will always be on their radar every time they are dealing with a patient with foot pain. The consequence to the patient in terms of a better outcome are dependent on the podiatrist suspecting that rare cause for the pain and getting it further investigated if they are suspicious.
The treatment of a cancer that affects the foot will depend if it is malignant or benign and just what tissue is affected and how far it has progressed. The treatment of cancers that affect the foot are no different to cancer anywhere else in the body and will involve a team of experts.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.