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Symptoms and Signs of Bone Cancer

Doctor's Notes on Bone Cancer

Bone cancer is cancer that arises in the bone cells. Although many types of cancer can spread via the bloodstream, or metastasize, to the bones, true bone cancer (primary bone cancer) is bone cancer that begins in the bones rather than spreading to them. There are a number of different kinds of bone cancer. The cause of bone cancer is not completely understood, but it likely involves a combination of genetic factors as well as environmental influences.

Signs and symptoms associated with bone cancer depend to some extent on the type and location of the cancer. Bone pain, that is often worse at night, is a characteristic symptom. Other symptoms and signs of bone cancer can include breaks or fractures of the bone, swelling of the involved area, numbness, tingling, or feeling a lump in the bone.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Bone Cancer Symptoms

The most common symptom of bone cancer is pain. The pain often starts off as a dull ache that gradually worsens over time. The pain may initially only occur at night or with specific activities. If the tumor weakens the bone, it may lead to a fracture that can cause more sudden and severe pain. A lump or mass over the surface of the bone may be felt or seen through the patient's skin.

Other less common bone cancer symptoms and signs include:

Bone Cancer Causes

In most cases, the cause of bone cancer is unknown. Most cancers begin with an error or mutation in the bone cell DNA, the control region and building blocks of the cells. Changes in the cellular DNA can lead to problems with the cells dividing and multiplying into new cells, potentially causing an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells.

There are certain known risk factors for developing some types of bone cancer. Osteosarcoma is more common in people who have received radiation therapy or treatment with certain chemotherapy medications. Osteosarcoma is also more common in children who have had hereditary retinoblastoma, which is a rare cancer of the eye. Ewing's sarcoma is more common in children with hereditary cancer syndromes, including Li-Fraumeni syndrome or Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, multiple exostoses, or other bone conditions, including Paget's disease of bone.

Osteoporosis Super-Foods for Strong Bones With Pictures Slideshow

Osteoporosis Super-Foods for Strong Bones With Pictures Slideshow

Nothing beats calcium for your bones. Sure, you can get it from dairy, but it’s also found in lots of vegetables. Why not do both? One great choice: dark leafy greens such as bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, collard greens, and turnip greens. One cup of cooked turnip greens has about 200 milligrams of calcium (20% of your daily goal). On top of that, dark greens also have vitamin K, which can reduce your risk for osteoporosis.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.