An Overview of Bone Cancer

Most people will go through some sort of bone or joint health issue in their lives, but hopefully never have to hear that they have bone cancer. Understanding the disease and what to be on watch for may help you or someone you love fight through it should the need arise.


Bone cancer comes from one of two sources. Either the cancer begins as a sarcoma in the bone itself (primary bone cancer), or it has metastasized (spread) from cancer located elsewhere in the body (secondary bone cancer). In comparison to other types of cancer, it is a less frequently occurring form.

Risk Factors

For bone cancer, risk factors are difficult to identify aside from a genetic predisposition. Radiation from treatment of other body cancers has been shown to increase the chance for bone cancers, as has previous bone marrow transplant history.


Many patients who are eventually diagnosed with bone cancer have visited their orthopaedic surgeon with complaints of bone pain or a limp that didn’t appear to come from an injury. Fatigue is a common symptom, as well as bone fractures, fever, swelling and unexplained weight loss.

Diagnosing the Problem

If bone cancer is suspected, tests such as x-rays and bloodwork will be done. CAT scans and MRIs are additional tools that can be used to detect the disease. Once an abnormal area has been discovered, an orthopaedic surgeon or cancer specialist may go in and take a tissue sample to biopsy and determine if the abnormality is cancerous.

Treating Bone Cancer

If the instance of bone cancer is small enough and hasn’t spread out, an orthopaedic surgeon can operate to remove the tumor and diseased tissue. This may be combined with chemotherapy (oral or IV drugs designed to kill cancer) and radiation treatment. As you can imagine, many side effects may occur from these treatments but the life-saving methods are often worth the price.

If ever you notice unusual changes in your bone health, talk to your orthopaedic surgeon. The more quickly bone cancer is detected, the better the outlook for recovery.

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