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Bone cancer (sarcoma) - Symptoms of bone cancer

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Bone pain is the most common symptom of bone cancer.

It usually begins with a feeling of tenderness in the affected bone, which gradually progresses to a persistent ache that often feels worse during the night and when the bone is in use.

In cases of Ewing's sarcoma, bone pain usually gets worse quite quickly.

Bone pain that is caused by bone cancer is sometimes wrongly mistaken for arthritis in adults and "growing pains" in children and teenagers.

If you have bone cancer, you may also experience swelling and redness (inflammation) or detect a noticeable lump on or around the affected bone. If the bone is near a joint, the swelling may make using the joint difficult.

In some cases the cancer can weaken a bone so it can become fractured or broken after a minor injury or fall.

Less common symptoms of bone cancer include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • unexplained weight loss
  • sweating; usually at night

When to seek medical advice

See your GP if you or your child experiences persistent bone pain that lasts for more than three days. Bone pain is unlikely to be the result of growing pains if it lasts longer than three days and, while it is highly unlikely to be the result of bone cancer, it does require further investigation.

The majority of cases of bone pain in adults are caused by arthritis. If you do have arthritis, you will benefit from having an early diagnosis.

Medical Review: July 02, 2013
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