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General Information About Osteosarcoma and Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma of Bone

Osteosarcoma and malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH) of the bone are diseases in which malignant (cancer) cells form in bone.

Osteosarcoma usually starts in osteoblasts, which are a type of bone cell that becomes new bone tissue. Osteosarcoma is most common in teenagers. It commonly forms in the ends of the long bones of the body, which include bones of the arms and legs. In children and teenagers, it often forms in the bones near the knee. Rarely, osteosarcoma may be found in soft tissue or organs in the chest or abdomen.

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Purpose of This Summary This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the formal ranking system used by the PDQ Editorial Boards to assess evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions. Reviewers and...

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Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer. Malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH) of bone is a rare tumor of the bone. It is treated like osteosarcoma.

Ewing sarcoma is another kind of bone cancer, but it is not covered in this summary. See the PDQ summary about Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors for more information.

Having past treatment with radiation can increase the risk of osteosarcoma.

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your child's doctor if you think your child may be at risk. Risk factors for osteosarcoma include the following:

  • Past treatment with radiation therapy.
  • Past treatment with anticancer drugs called alkylating agents.
  • Having a certain change in the retinoblastoma gene.
  • Having certain conditions, such as the following:
    • Hereditary retinoblastoma.
    • Paget disease.
    • Diamond-Blackfan anemia.
    • Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
    • Rothmund-Thomson syndrome.
    • Bloom syndrome.
    • Werner syndrome.

Possible signs of osteosarcoma and MFH include pain and swelling over a bone or a bony part of the body.

These and other symptoms may be caused by osteosarcoma or MFH. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Check with a doctor if your child has any of the following problems:

  • Swelling over a bone or bony part of the body.
  • Pain in a bone or joint.
  • A bone that breaks for no known reason.

Imaging tests are used to detect (find) osteosarcoma and MFH.

Imaging tests are done before the biopsy. The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • X-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the body. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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