Bone Cancer



Bone cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body.

The cause of primary bone cancer is unknown. Genes most likely play a role.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of bone cancer are:

  • Paget's disease
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Family history of bone cancer
  • Certain bone conditions

There may be other things that raise the risk. It depends on the type of bone cancer.



Symptoms will vary. They depend on the size and site of the tumor. Symptoms may be:

  • Pain at the tumor site
  • Swelling or a lump at the tumor site
  • Deep bone pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Being very tired
  • Problems breathing
  • Fever or night sweats


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Signs of cancer can be found with:

  • Blood tests—to look for abnormal bone activity
  • Biopsy—a sample of cells is taken with a needle or incision and then tested

Images can show where the tumor is and how large it may be. They can also show if a cancer has spread. Tests may include:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Bone scan

Test results will be used for staging. This will outline how far and fast the cancer has spread.



Treatment depends on the type, stage, and site of the cancer. It also depends on a person's overall health. One or more treatments may be used.

Surgery is used for most types of bone cancer. It may include removing:

  • The cancer and tissue in the area
  • Some nearby lymph nodes
  • Bone or an entire limb—if other options cannot remove the cancer
  • Placing bone grafts and metal plates—to support the bone after cancer is removed

Radiation therapy uses high energy rays or particles to kill or shrink cancer cells. It may be used:

  • After surgery—to kill an cancer cells that remain
  • Instead of surgery, if the cancer cannot be removed—to shrink the tumor and ease symptoms
  • Radiation—to kill or shrink cancer cells
  • Stem cell support—to regrow the bone marrow, if needed

Chemotherapy may be given by pills, injection or IV— to kill the cancer cells. It is used more often for certain types of bone cancer.

Other treatments that may be used for some bone cancers are:

  • Targeted therapy—targets and destroys cancer cells
  • Drugs that affect bone cells
  • Immunotherapy—drugs that help the body fight cancer
Radiation of Tumor
Radiation of Tumor
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There are no current guidelines to prevent bone cancer.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.