The human skeleton comprises more than 200 bones. A bone is made mostly of cells, collagen, and calcium. Bone cancer is cancer that begins in your bones. You may often hear it referred to as primary bone cancer. Secondary bone cancer is a cancer that starts in another part of the body and later spreads to the bone. Primary bone cancer begins in the cells of the bone and then develops into a cancerous (malignant tumor). The cancer then destroys normal bone tissue in the body.
Our bodies have different cells and each cell has its own genetic makeup. Bone cancers are broken down into separate categories based on the type of cell where the cancer originated.
- Osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma begins in the bone cells. Osteosarcoma occurs most often in children and young adults.
- Chondrosarcoma. Chondrosarcoma begins in the cells of your cartilage. It usually occurs in older adults.
- Ewing’s sarcoma. Ewing’s sarcoma usually occurs in the bone, but may also arise in soft tissue.
Primary bone cancers are rare. They commonly affect children and young adults.
Not all bone tumors are cancerous. Noncancerous (or benign) tumors are more common than cancerous tumors. Benign tumors do not spread and are not considered life-threatening.
If you are experiencing persistent pain, or symptoms of bone cancer, contact your healthcare provider.
It is not clear what causes most bone cancers. Doctors have found certain factors may increase the risk of bone cancer including genetics and previous exposure to radiation.
To help diagnose bone cancer, your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and symptoms. Your provider may order diagnostic tests such as:
- Blood tests
- Bone scans
- Computed tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
Once your doctor diagnoses bone cancer, he or she will work with a specialist (called an oncologist) to determine the extent (stage) of your cancer.
At this time, there is no known way to prevent bone cancer.
Signs and symptoms of bone cancer include the following:
- Bone pain that worsens, or doesn’t go away
- Swelling and tenderness
- Unexplained fracture or broken bone