Bone cancer is a malignant (cancerous) tumor of the bone that destroys normal bone tissue. Not all bone tumors are malignant. In fact, benign (noncancerous) bone tumors are more common than malignant ones. Both malignant and benign bone tumors may grow and compress healthy bone tissue, but benign tumors do not spread, do not destroy bone tissue, and are rarely a threat to life.
Malignant tumors that begin in bone tissue are called primary bone cancer. Cancer that metastasizes (spreads) to the bones from other parts of the body, such as the breast, lung, or prostate, is called metastatic cancer, and is named for the organ or tissue in which it began. Primary bone cancer is far less common than cancer that spreads to the bones.
Common types of primary bone cancer include:
- Osteosarcoma, which arises from osteoid tissue in the bone. This tumor occurs most often in the knee and upper arm.
- Chondrosarcoma, which begins in cartilaginous tissue. Cartilage pads the ends of bones and lines the joints. Chondrosarcoma occurs most often in the pelvis (located between the hip bones), upper leg, and shoulder. Sometimes a chondrosarcoma contains cancerous bone cells. In that case, doctors classify the tumor as an osteosarcoma.
- Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors (ESFTs), which usually occur in bone but may also arise in soft tissue (muscle, fat, fibrous tissue, blood vessels, or other supporting tissue). Scientists think that ESFTs arise from elements of primitive nerve tissue in the bone or soft tissue. ESFTs occur most commonly along the backbone and pelvis and in the legs and arms.
Signs and Symptoms:
Pain is the most common symptom of bone cancer, but not all bone cancers cause pain. Persistent or unusual pain or swelling in or near a bone can be caused by cancer or by other conditions. It is important to see a doctor to determine the cause.
Acknowledgment: This text is adapted from the NCI website.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
NCI has up-to-date information for patients and practitioners about bone cancer.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
This PDF below is a 1 page fact sheet from CDC to be used as quick handouts.
- Download the PDF file: (pdf 23 KB).
MedlinePlus - Bone Cancer Link
MedlinePlus will direct you to information to help answer health questions. MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news. Please make sure you check the MedlinePlus online for Bone Cancer information with an extensive, constantly updated resource list.
- Visit MedlinePlus.
American Society of Clincal Oncology (ASCO)
"Cancer.Net brings the expertise and resources of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the voice of the world's cancer physicians, to people living with cancer and those who care for and care about them. ASCO is composed of nearly 30,000 members who are the leaders in advancing cancer care. All the information and content on Cancer.Net was developed and approved by the cancer doctors who are members of ASCO, making Cancer.Net an up-to date and trusted resource for cancer information."
- Visit ASCO's Bone Cancer webpage.
American Cancer Society (ACS)
ACS is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.
- Visit ACS's Bone Cancer webpage.
- Download the PDF version of the same information listed on the website: (pdf 122 KB).
Bone Cancer Treatment Guidelines for Patients
The Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration (SARC) offers an extensive 52 page guideline for treatment of primary bone cancer for patients. The guidelines are based on the NCCN Physician Clinical Practice Guidelines V.1.2009.
- Download the PDF file: (pdf 1.2 MB)
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