A bone tumor is an abnormal growth of cells within a bone. A bone tumor may be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).
The cause of bone tumors is unknown. They often occur in areas of the bone that grow rapidly. Possible causes include:
In most cases, no specific cause is found.
Osteochondromas are the most common noncancerous (benign) bone tumors, and occur most often in people between the ages of 10 and 20.
Cancers that start in the bones are referred to as primary bone tumors. Cancers that start in another part of the body (such as the breast, lungs, or colon) are called secondary or metastatic bone tumors. They behave very differently from primary bone tumors. Multiple myeloma often affects or involves the bone, but is not considered a primary bone tumor.
Cancerous (malignant) bone tumors include:
The cancers that most often spread to the bone are cancers of the:
These forms of cancer usually affect older people.
Bone cancer is more common in persons who have a family history of cancers.
Symptoms of bone tumor may include any of the following:
Some benign tumors have no symptoms.
The doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam. Tests that may be done include:
This disease may also affect the results of the following tests:
Some benign bone tumors go away on their own and do not need treatment. Your doctor will closely monitor you. You will likely need regular imaging tests, such as x-rays, to see if the tumor shrinks or grows.
Surgery may be needed to remove the tumor in some cases.
Treatment for cancerous bone tumors that have spread from other parts of the body depends on where the cancer started. Radiation therapy may be given to prevent fractures or to relieve pain.
Tumors that start in the bone are rare. After biopsy, a combination of chemotherapy and surgery is usually necessary. Radiation therapy may be needed before or after surgery.
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.
How well you do depends on the type of bone tumor.
Outcome is expected to be good for people with noncancerous (benign) tumors. But some benign bone tumors can turn into cancer.
Most patients with cancerous bone tumors that have not spread can achieve a cure. The cure rate depends on the type of cancer, location, size, and other factors. Talk to your doctor about your particular cancer.
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of a bone tumor.
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.