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Common symptoms include:

  • Bone pain, which is often worse during physical activity or at night
  • Stiffness, inflammation (swelling), or tenderness around a bone or joint
  • Bone fractures
  • Lump on a bone
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

When to See a Doctor

See a doctor if your child has the symptoms of bone cancer, particularly:

  • Pain or swelling in the leg or arm, especially if it awakens your child at night.
  • An unexplained lump that forms in an area of bone pain.

Causes and Risk Factors

Most bone cancers are caused by errors in DNA (genetic material) that occur during periods of rapid bone growth.

Sometimes, these things can increase a child’s risk of getting bone cancer:

  • Radiation therapy. Children who have received radiation therapy for another childhood cancer have a higher risk for certain bone cancers.
  • Diseases passed down in families. Rare cancers – like retinoblastoma [ret-no-bla-STOW-ma] and Li-Fraumeni syndrome – run in certain families and may put some children at a higher risk of getting bone cancer.

Diagnosis and Tests

Bone cancer is diagnosed by:

  • Performing a physical exam
  • Taking your child’s medical history
  • Ordering and reviewing x-rays or other imaging tests
  • Taking a biopsy (sample) of bone tissue for testing


Treatments for bone cancer include:

  • Surgery. Surgery is the main treatment for most bone cancers and is done to remove cancerous tumors. Sometimes amputation (surgery to remove part or all of an arm or leg) is needed to remove the cancer.
  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy, or “chemo,” is the use of medicines to treat cancer. The medicines are put into the bloodstream to reach and destroy cancer in the body.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or rays to kill cancer cells.


There are no known ways to prevent childhood bone cancers. However, early diagnosis and treatment help most children recover well.

Support and Resources

What is Bone Cancer?

Bone cancer is cancer that either starts in a bone or has spread to a bone from a different part of the body. Cancer that has spread to a bone is a much more common type of bone cancer than cancer that starts in a bone.

Two types of bone cancer generally occur in children and teens:

  • Osteosarcoma [os-tee-oh-sahr-KOH-muh]. Osteosarcoma is more common among the two types of bone cancer and occurs most frequently in the ends of the long bones near the knees and shoulders. This type of bone cancer generally occurs between 10 and 19 years of age.
  • Ewing’s [YOO-ings] sarcoma [sahr-KOH-muh]. It’s more common in males than females and usually occurs in the pelvis, upper leg, upper arm, backbone, or ribs.