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Cancer Health Center

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Bone Tumors

Symptoms of Bone Tumors

You may have no symptoms of a bone tumor. This is common. Your doctor may find a tumor when looking at an X-ray of another problem, such as a sprain. But symptoms of a bone tumor may include pain that:

  • Is in the area of the tumor
  • Is often felt as dull or achy
  • May get worse with activity
  • Often awakens people at night

Trauma does not cause a bone tumor, but a bone that is weakened by a tumor may be more easily broken. This may then cause severe pain.

Other symptoms related to bone tumors may include:

If you think you might have a bone tumor, see your doctor right way. Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history and conduct a physical exam. You may need blood and imaging tests. To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor may remove tissue through a needle or incision and have it examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. This is called a biopsy.

Treatment of Bone Tumors

Cancerous bone tumors require more aggressive treatment to enhance survival.

Benign tumors are watched or may be treated with medication. Your doctor may remove benign tumors that are more likely to spread or become cancer. In some cases, tumors come back, even after treatment.

Malignant tumors may require the attention of several cancer specialists. Treatment depends on the stage of cancer -- how far it has spread. Cancer cells confined to the bone tumor and surrounding area are at a localized stage. Bone cancers that spread to other areas of the body are at a metastatic stage. These are more serious and a cure is more difficult. Cancers of the bone are most often removed with surgery.

These are common types of treatment for bone cancer:

  • Limb salvage surgery removes the part of the bone with cancer. Nearby muscles, tendons, and other tissues are not removed. A metallic implant (prosthesis) replaces the portion of bone that was removed.
  • Amputation may be needed if a tumor is large or extends to nerves and blood vessels. A prosthetic limb can aid function after amputation.
  • Radiation therapy kills cancer cells and shrinks tumors with high-dose X-rays. It is often used in combination with surgery and may be used before or after surgery.
  • Systemic chemotherapy kills tumor cells that have spread through the bloodstream with cancer drugs. Chemotherapy may be given before surgery, after surgery, or for metastatic disease.

Your doctor may recommend that you participate in a clinical trial, which tests new therapies. Regardless of your type of treatment, you will need regular follow-up with your doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 28, 2014
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