Bone cancer is a sarcoma that starts in the bones or adjacent soft tissues such as cartilage.
Cancers that starts in the bone are rare. More often, cancer in the bones has spread from elsewhere in the body (metastasized) and needs to be treated as part of the original cancer.
Bone cancer is more common in children than adults and tends to affect the pelvis or the long bones in the arms and legs.
Bone cancer is different from soft-tissue sarcoma, which starts in the tissues such as fat, muscle, blood vessels, nerves, deep skin tissue and fibrous tissue. Bone marrow cancer, also known as multiple myeloma, affects the spongy marrow inside the bones.
More cancer patients choose Norton Cancer Institute than any other oncology provider in Louisville or Southern Indiana. Our board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists work with orthopedists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, physiatrists and others to bring a range of opinions to bear on your case.
Norton Cancer Institute oncologists are often researchers as well. That means they’ll often have unique experience with newly approved treatments. In addition, with more than 200 clinical trials underway at any time, our providers have access to new and potentially groundbreaking treatments.
If you’ve been diagnosed with bone cancer, you want to start getting better right away. That’s why we offer same-day appointments for newly diagnosed patients.
At Norton Cancer Institute, you’ll have a one-on-one relationship with your oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist or other specialist. The next cancer doctor you see will be either someone you know or someone you’ll be seeing again who knows your case.
Most cases of bone cancer are from unknown sources, but radiation and some rare genetic conditions can increase the risk of bone cancer.
Types of Bone Cancer
- Osteosarcoma – This cancer starts in the bone cells, most often in long bones. Typically it starts in the legs, but also starts in the arms. Osteosarcoma is more prevalent among teenagers and young adults, but can strike at any age.
- Ewing sarcoma – More frequently seen in children and teenagers, it is typically found in the pelvis or femur bones or surrounding soft tissue.
- Chondrosarcoma – This bone cancer starts in cartilage cells that are at the end of bones and line the joints. Bones typically develop from cartilage when we’re young. Chondrosarcoma is typically found in the femur, shoulder or pelvis. It also can start in the knee, ribs, skull or windpipe, but this is less common.
Bone Cancer Symptoms
- Pain or swelling in the arm, leg or torso areas that does not resolve with pain relievers, ice or other home remedies: Pain may start as sporadic and become more constant over time.
- A lump in the affected area may rise up, typically after pain is already a concern.
- You also may have sudden limited range of motion in a joint.
- Fever of unknown origin can be a symptom.
- A bone that breaks from no apparent cause or in an area that has been sore can be a sign of cancer.
Bone Cancer Treatment
Norton Cancer Institute specialists will develop a treatment plan unique to you and your type of cancer. Having cancer affects more than a bone. Your cancer care team looks to treat the whole person, not just the cancer.
Treating bone cancers typically involves more than one type of treatment.
- Orthopedic oncologists specialize in removing bone cancer surgically. Techniques are available that can keep a limb intact while removing the tumor. Depending on the tumor’s size and location, however, amputation may be necessary.
- Radiation therapy – High energy is delivered from outside the body. Multiple beams of radiation target the tumor from multiple directions. The result is that each individual beam doesn’t destroy healthy tissue, but at the intersection of all the beams, the tumor can be eradicated. In bone cancer cases, radiation is an option when the tumor cannot be removed surgically. Radiation therapy also may be needed before surgery.
- Chemotherapy. These are drugs that destroy cancer cells. They are often a follow-up to surgery, especially in cases of Ewing sarcoma or osteosarcoma, to reduce the risk of cancer spreading to the lungs or other parts of the body. Chemotherapy also can be used before surgery to make the tumor easier to remove and can help head off metastasis.
- Newer treatments that target the specific genetic makeup of your cancer cells to block their growth may be an option. Very rarely, some bone cancers have a specific mutation in the neurotrophic receptor tyrosine kinase gene. A medication that inhibits the mutated gene has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Immunotherapy. Often targeting immune checkpoint inhibitors, immunotherapy drugs turn the body’s immune system to attack the cancer.