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Cancer health centre

Bone tumours

Bone tumours can be cancerous - or non-cancerous, called benign.

Primary bone cancer begins in the bones but may then spread to other parts of the body.

Metastatic bone cancer spreads to the bones from another part of the body.

Benign bone tumours

Benign tumours are more common than cancer of the bones. These include:

  • Non-ossifying fibroma - a single bone tumour found mostly in the long bones of children. It does not usually cause symptoms.
  • Osteochondroma - a tumour in areas of bone and cartilage, more common in people under age 20.
  • Giant cell tumour - a benign tumour, typically affecting the leg (malignant types of this tumour are uncommon).
  • Osteoid osteoma - a bone tumour that often affects the long bones of people in their early 20s.
  • Osteoblastoma - a single tumour that occurs in the spine and long bones, mostly in young adults.

Metastatic cancer

Cancers that commonly spread to bone include:

Primary bone cancer

Primary bone cancer is cancer that forms first in bone. It is less common than metastatic cancer.

There are around 550 cases of primary bone cancer diagnosed in the UK each year.

The cause of bone cancer is not certain, but inherited genes may play a role.

Radiotherapy and anticancer drugs may also increase the risk of this type of cancer.

Common types of bone cancer include:

  • Osteosarcoma begins in bone cells and is most common in the thigh, shin and other larger bones. Most of the time, it is found in teenagers and young adults.
  • Ewing's sarcoma also shows up in younger people between the ages of 10 and 20. Ribs, pelvis, leg, and upper arm are the most common sites. It usually shows up in bone, but can also start in soft tissue around bones.
  • Chondrosarcoma occurs most often in people between 40 and 50. The ribs, pelvis, leg, arm and shoulder are more common sites of this cancer, which begins in cartilage cells.
  • Chordoma is a tumour of the skull and bones of the spine. More common in adults over age 40, it tends to grow slowly and is less likely than other tumours to spread.
  • Spindle cell sarcoma is a tumour that is similar to osteosarcoma but affects adults over 40.
  • Although almost always found in bone, multiple myeloma is not a primary bone cancer. It is a bone marrow cancer. Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside bones.

Symptoms of bone tumours

There may be a mass or tumour in a bone, but no symptoms, in some cases.

The tumour may be discovered during an X-ray for another condition.

Symptoms of a bone tumour may include:

WebMD Medical Reference

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