Bone Cancer

Most commonly, bones are the site of tumors that spread or metastasize from another organ, such as the breasts, lungs or prostate. Cancer that arises in the bone — primary bone cancer — is rare.

Bone tumors may be benign or malignant. Benign bone tumors are more common, but both types may grow and compress healthy bone tissue and absorb or replace it with abnormal tissue. Benign tumors, however, don’t spread and are rarely life threatening.

The most common type of bone cancer is osteosarcoma, which develops in new tissue in growing bones. Another type of cancer, chondrosarcoma, occurs in cartilage. Ewing’s sarcoma begins in immature nerve tissue in bone marrow. Osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma tend to occur more frequently in children and teens, while chondrosarcoma occurs more often in adults.

Pain is the most common symptom of bone cancer. Symptoms may vary depending on the location and size of the cancer.

Tumors that occur in or near joints may cause swelling or tenderness in the affected area. Bone cancer also can interfere with normal movements and can weaken the bones, occasionally leading to a fracture. Other symptoms may include fatigue, fever, weight loss and anemia.

 

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.