Bone cancer is a growth that destroys normal bone tissue. It can also spread beyond the bone. It may be:
Primary bone cancer—starts in bone tissue Secondary or metastatic bone cancer—cancer starts somewhere else and travels to the bone
Other types of bone cancer are:
Osteosarcoma—a tumor of the bone, usually of the arms, legs, or pelvis Chondrosarcoma—begins in the cartilage
Ewing sarcoma—tumors that usually begin in the leg and arm bones
Fibrosarcoma and malignant fibrous histiocytoma—forms in soft tissues and moves to the bones of the legs, arms, and jaw Giant cell tumor—a primary bone tumor, most common in the arm or leg bones Chordoma—a primary bone tumor that is usually in the skull or spine Causes
Bone cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body.
The cause of primary bone cancer is unknown. Genes most likely play a role.
Things that may raise the risk of bone cancer are:
Paget's disease Exposure to radiation Family history of bone cancer Certain bone conditions
There may be other things that raise the risk. It depends on the type of bone cancer.
Symptoms will vary. They depend on the size and site of the tumor. Symptoms may be:
Pain at the tumor site Swelling or a lump at the tumor site Deep bone pain Unexplained weight loss Being very tired Problems breathing Fever or night sweats Diagnosis
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Signs of cancer can be found with:
Blood tests—to look for abnormal bone activity Biopsy—a sample of cells is taken and tested
Images can show where the tumor is and how large it may be. They can also show if a cancer has spread. Tests may include:
Test results will be used for staging. This will outline how far and fast the cancer has spread.
Treatment depends on the type, stage, and site of the cancer. It also depends on a person's overall health. Options may be:
Surgery to remove: The cancer and tissue in the area Some nearby lymph nodes Bone or an entire limb—if other options cannot remove the cancer Bone grafts and metal plates—to support the bone after cancer is removed Chemotherapy, given by pills, injection or IV— to kill the cancer cells Radiation—to kill or shrink cancer cells Stem cell support—to regrow the bone marrow, if needed
Radiation of Tumor
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There are no current guidelines to prevent bone cancer.
Bone cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/bone-cancer.html. AccessedMarch 17, 2021.
Bone cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/bone/bone-fact-sheet.AccessedMarch 17, 2021.
Ferguson JL, Turner SP. Bone cancer: diagnosis and treatment principles. Am Fam Physician. 2018;98(4):205-213.
Osteosarcoma in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/osteosarcoma-in-adults. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Osteosarcoma in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/osteosarcoma-in-children. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Last reviewed Januray 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/17/2021