A bone tumor is the result of abnormal growth of cells in the bone. Bone tumors are either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). While the causes of bone tumors are not readily known, some contributing factors can include trauma, radiation, or genetic mutations that are inherited.
For cancers that begin in the bone, they are referred to as primary bone tumors. When cancer begins in another area of the body, such as the breast, the lungs, or the colon, and then spreads to the bone, it is known as a secondary bone tumor.
Osteochondroma, usually found in individuals between the ages of 10 and 20, is the most common type of benign bone tumor. It is important to note that some benign bone tumors simply go away on their own, requiring no treatment, except for periodic checks to see if they have changed in size.
When cancer begins in the bone, it is usually referred to as primary bone tumors. When cancer starts in another area of the body and spreads (metastasizes) to the bone, it is know as a secondary bone tumor.
Bone tumors that are malignant include chondrosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and osteosarcomas. Types of cancers that commonly spread to the bone are breast, kidney, prostate, thyroid, and lung. These cancers generally affect older people.
When there is an increased risk for certain types of cancers in families due to genetics, the incidence of bone cancer is greater. Bone cancer in children is seen in about five cases per one million children each year.
Symptoms typically associated with a bone tumor include a bone fracture, especially when the injury is minimal. The patient may experience bone pain which becomes more pronounced at night. Sometimes, there will be swelling or a mass at the site of the tumor. It should be noted, however, that some benign tumors produce no symptoms at all.
Among the tests conducted to determine the type of bone tumor present include an alkaline phosphatase blood level, a bone biopsy, a bone scan, an x-ray of the affected bone, or an MRI of the bone and the tissue surrounding it.
Many benign bone tumors may not require any treatment at all.