Bone Cancer

Dr. Ayush PandeyMBBS,PG Diploma

December 28, 2018

March 06, 2020

Bone Cancer
Bone Cancer

What is bone cancer?

Bone cancer is a rare form of cancer that is characterised by abnormal growths in the bones of the body. Bone cancer occurs when the normal cells in a bone become cancerous or malignant or when cancer cells from other regions of the body, such as the lungs, breasts, or prostate gland spread to a bone. Bone cancer mainly affects children and adolescents and accounts for 0.2% of all cancers.

What are its main associated signs and symptoms?

Pain in the bones and joints is a common symptom of bone cancer. Symptoms experienced by an individual will vary based on the area affected and the size of the cancerous tumour. Other common symptoms seen are:

  • Swelling of the bones and joints.
  • Difficulty in movement.
  • Proneness to fracture.
  • Multiple fractures.
  • Weak bones.

Other non-specific common signs and symptoms are:

  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Fever.
  • Sweating.
  • Tiredness.
  • Reduced levels of haemoglobin (anaemia).

What are the main causes?

The exact cause is still unknown. Certain risk factors that can increase your chance of developing bone cancer are:

  • Hereditary conditions like retinoblastoma (eye cancer), chondrosarcomas (cancer of the cartilage), and chordomas (non-cancerous cartilage tumour).
  • Exposure to radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • History of non-cancerous tumours like Paget’s disease.
  • Injury to the bones.
  • Bone marrow transplantation.
  • Bone implants.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

After a physical examination and detailed family and personal history, the doctor will carry out one or more of the following diagnostic tests.

  • Blood test to detect abnormal levels of enzymes produced by bones, such as alkaline phosphatase. However, this test will not confirm the presence of bone cancer.
  • One or more imaging tests like X-ray, bone scan, MRI, and CT scan to find the location and size of cancer.
  • Biopsy, where a sample is taken from the affected bone and examined for cancer cells.
  • PET scan to look for the spread of cancer to other parts of the body

Surgery is a common treatment for bone cancer. Other available treatment options are chemotherapy and radiation therapy depending on the individual’s condition.


  1. American Cancer Society. What Causes Bone Cancer?. New York; [Internet]
  2. Anant Ramaswamy et al. Indian data on bone and soft tissue sarcomas: A summary of published study results. South Asian J Cancer. 2016 Jul-Sep; 5(3): 138–145. PMID: 27606300
  3. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Bone cancer
  4. Department of Health and Services. CANCER FACTS. National Cancer institute; Institutes of Health .
  5. Ferguson JL et al. Bone Cancer: Diagnosis and Treatment Principles.. Am Fam Physician. 2018 Aug 15;98(4):205-213. PMID: 30215968
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