Bone Cancer

Bone cancer is the abnormal growth of cells within the bones of the body. While this cancer may a ect any bone in the body, it is most frequently found in the body’s longer bones. Primary bone tumors begin in the bone itself, and they are considered a sarcoma. Primary cancers of bones account for less than 0.2% of all cancers1.

Credit: American Cancer Society

What different types of bone cancers exist?

There are several types of bone cancer that affect its different components. Read more about the types of bone cancer at the American Cancer Society website.

What are the symptoms of bone cancer?

  • Bone pain
  • Swelling or tenderness of the joints
  • Bone fractures
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Stiffness

How is bone cancer diagnosed?

Imaging tests use x-rays, magnets, sound waves, or radioactive chemicals to produce pictures of the inside of the body. For bone cancer, imaging tests include x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, radionuclide bone scans, and positron emissions tomography (PET) scans.

Biopsies involve removing and studying a small portion of the bone tumor under a microscope. Biopsies remain the only way to differentiate between bone cancer and other bone diseases.

What are the different stages of bone cancer?

TNMG Staging for Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcomas is the most commonly used system by medical professionals for classification and evaluation of bone cancer.

The TNM system for prostate cancer is based on 4 key pieces of information:

T stands for features of tumor (its size and if it is in more than one spot on the bone)
N stands for spread to lymph nodes
M is for metastasis (spread) to distant organs
G is for the tumor’s grade. The grade of a tumor is based on how abnormal the cells look when seen under a microscope.

What are the treatment options for bone cancer?

This bone cancer treatment information does not outline the particular treatment(s) a patient will receive. Rather, it provides general information about the typical treatments used for this type of cancer.

Primary treatment options:

Surgery is the primary treatment for bone cancer. The main purpose of surgery is to remove all cancerous portions of the bone. If the cancerous portions are not properly removed, a new tumor will form. During surgery, the doctor will remove the tumor plus surrounding normal tissue; this is known as wide-excision. Removing this extra tissue will help ensure the cancer does not return.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to kill cancer cells. Most bone cancers are not easily killed using radiation and require high doses of radiation, which may damage nearby tissues, organs and nerves. Often if cancer cells remain after surgery, radiation therapy is used.

Chemotherapy employs drugs to treat cancer. These drugs are injected into the bloodstream, and they circulate to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy is often used to treat sarcoma and osteosarcoma, but not often employed to treat other bone cancers.

Secondary treatment options:

Targeted therapies are drugs that prevent the growth of cancer cells and protect healthy bone cells from damage. Targeted drugs are especially useful in treating chordomas and other bone cancers.

What are the risk factors of bone cancer?

  • Bone Marrow Transplants: Osteosarcoma has been reported by a few patients who have had bone marrow (stem cell) transplants.
  • Radiation: Bone exposure to radiation at high levels may also increase the risk of developing bone cancer.
  • Genetic disorders: Hereditary mutations in certain genes are the root cause of some bone cancers; Osteosarcoma is one bone cancer that appears to have a genetic basis.
  • Paget disease: Bone cancer develops in about 1% of those with Paget disease, usually when many bones are affected.
  • Radiation exposure: Previous extended radiation exposure increases the chances of developing bone cancer.

How is bone cancer prevented?

There has been no indication of preventing bone cancers through lifestyle changes.

Mikayla D. Williams , BS student, Nursing , The University of Arizona
Michael Principe, MA, Information Resources and Library Science , The University of Arizona
Works Cited: 
American Cancer Society (2014). Bone Cancer.
Works Consulted: 
University of Maryland Medical Center (2014). Bone cancer.
National Cancer Institute (2014). Bone Cancer.