An osteochondroma is the most common type of harmless bone tumor. It starts in the cartilage that cushions bones. It can appear on the bones of the arms and legs. Sometimes it happens on the pelvic bones and shoulder blades.
An osteochondroma usually stops growing when a person reaches full height. If the tumors are harmful, they will keep growing and spreading.
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The cause of osteochondroma is unknown. A hereditary form of the disease may be linked to problems with your genes.
Your chances of osteochondroma are higher if you:
- Are a child or teen.
- Are male.
- Have other people in your family with the same problems.
- Have many osteochondromas on your bones. These are hereditary and rare.
Osteochondroma may cause:
A hard, bony lump that may be:
- Painless and not tender, but the tissue around it may become irritated and painful
- Enlarging in size
- A long bone that breaks with less than the usual amount of force
- Pressure on nearby structures, including nerves
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. Your answers and a physical exam may point to osteochondroma. They may also have:
Imaging tests such as:
Your child's doctor may do a biopsy. A tissue sample is taken and checked in a lab. This will determine if the lump is cancerous.
Your child's doctor will go over treatment options. These may be:
- Monitoring—If the lump is not causing pain or other problems, it may be left alone. You and the doctor will keep track of it for any changes or new problems.
- Surgery—The lump is removed if it causes pain or other complications. It’s also removed if there is a chance of cancer. If the bone is weak, it can be rebuilt. Rebuilding the bone is done over a long period of time.
There is no way to prevent osteochondroma since the cause is unknown.
American Cancer Society
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Cancer Society
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Murphey M, Choi J, Krandsdorf MJ, Flemming DJ, Gannon FH. Imaging of osteochondroma: variants and complications with radiologic-pathologic correlation. Radiographics. 2000;20(5):1407-1434.
Osteochondroma. Bone Tumor website. Available at: http://www.bonetumor.org/tumors-cartilage/osteochondroma. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Osteochondroma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116166/Osteochondroma. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Osteochondroma. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/bone_disorders/osteochondroma_85,p00125. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Osteochondroma. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/osteochondroma. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 1/29/2021