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Bone cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on July 20, 2022.

Most cancer found in bones has metastasized from other parts of the body. Primary bone cancer, which starts in the bone, accounts for fewer than 1 percent of all cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Primary bone tumors are called sarcomas and are malignant (cancerous). While malignant tumors may occur in any bone, primary bone cancer most often develops in the long bones of the arms and legs.

Bone cancer that starts in another part of the body is secondary bone cancer and is identified by the area where it originated. For example, multiple myeloma and leukemia begin in the bone marrow and can cause malignant bone tumors, but they are classified as blood cancers rather than primary bone cancers. Secondary bone cancer may have similar signs and symptoms to primary bone cancer, so a biopsy is often needed to determine the cause of the cancer.

No bone cancer patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

At City of Hope, we believe that every cancer is as unique as the person fighting it. In an era of precision medicine, with ever-evolving treatment advances, fighting bone cancer requires personalized care, delivered by experts trained in the many facets of this complex disease. Our cancer experts work with a multidisciplinary care team that uses a wide array of diagnostic tests, such as PET and CT scans, to diagnose and stage the disease and customize an individualized treatment plan. Throughout treatment, imaging and laboratory tests track the size of the tumors and the response to treatment, allowing the care team to modify the treatment plan as needed, in real time.

This overview will cover the basic facts about bone cancer, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of bone cancer and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion on your bone cancer diagnosis and treatment plan, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What causes bone cancer?

Who gets bone cancer?

There is no definitive understanding of who gets bone cancer. Some forms of the disease affect young people, while others don’t show up until middle age or later years. Several are more common in men than women.

Bone cancer types

Bone cancer symptoms

Many bone cancer symptoms match common symptoms associated with arthritis, osteoporosis or injury. If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor in order to identify the cause.

Possible symptoms of bone cancer include:

  • Bone pain
  • Swelling (or a lump) in the area of the bone pain
  • Fractures resulting from weakened bones
  • Unintended weight loss and fatigue that accompanies bone pain
  • Difficulty breathing, if the cancer has spread to other organs, such as the lungs

Learn more about symptoms of bone cancer

Diagnosing bone cancer

Bone cancer treatment options

Treatment options for bone cancer include:

Learn more about treatment options for bone cancer

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