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Primary Bone Cancer:

The term, “primary bone cancer” refers to a type of cancer that starts in the bones rather than cancer that has spread to the bones from other parts of the body, (secondary bone cancer.)

Symptoms of Primary Bone Cancer

  • Bone pain; this has been described as an ache-like pain; it may come and go at first then become more persistent, especially at night.
  • Eventually the tumour may reduce movement of a joint or cause a limp.
  • Sometimes a swelling may be present depending on the site and size of the tumour.

The more people who are aware of primary bone cancer symptoms the more likely they are to do something about it.

The two most common types of primary bone cancer in young people are Osteosarcoma and Ewing’s Sarcoma.

Osteosarcoma:

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of primary bone cancer. It starts when bone cells become abnormal, growing out of control to form a lump of cancerous tissue known as a tumour. The cancerous tissue consists of abnormal cells that are attempting to make bone.

The three areas most often affected by Osteosarcoma are the lower thigh bone nearest to the knee (distal femur,) the upper shin bone nearest to the knee (proximal tibia,) and the upper arm bone nearest to the shoulder (proximal humerus.) Other bones can be affected such as the jaw, spine and pelvis.

Osteosarcoma usually behaves in an aggressive manner, which means it can spread in the blood stream from or through the bone in which it starts to other places in the body.

How do people get Osteosarcoma?

Doctors don’t really know what causes Osteosarcoma but during the teenage or early adult years, which is called adolescence, bones grow very quickly. It is thought that this rapid bone growth may be part of the reason why young people develop Osteosarcoma more often during teenage years than younger children or older adults. Osteosarcoma is more common in people between 10 and 24 years old.

  • You can’t catch Osteosarcoma from another person.
  • Osteosarcoma can’t be prevented, so it’s not because of anything you’ve done.
  • For more information on Osteosarcoma and its treatment, please see www.BCRT.org.uk.

Ewing’s Sarcoma

Ewing’s Sarcoma is the second most frequent primary bone cancer found in young people after Osteosarcoma. It is a rare cancer that can form in bone and soft tissue (muscles,) the majority of Ewing’s Sarcomas (around 85%) start in the bones. If cells start to divide too quickly or in an uncontrolled way, they can form a lump called a tumour. As well as dividing uncontrollably, cancer cells can also invade and damage other tissues.

Ewing’s Sarcoma can develop anywhere in the body but is mostly found in the pelvis, ribs, and long bones. The pelvis, ribs and thigh bone (femur) account for almost half of all Ewing’s Sarcomas. Other bones can be affected including the upper arm (humerus,) collar bone (clavical,) lower leg (tibia and fibula) and spine.

Ewing’s Sarcoma can spread quickly and has a tendency to come back (recur.)

How do people get Ewing’s Sarcoma?

Doctors don’t really know what causes Ewing’s Sarcoma but during the teenage or early adult year, which is called adolescence, bones grow very quickly. It is thought that this rapid bone growth may be part of the reason why young people develop Ewing’s Sarcoma more often during teenage years than younger children or older adults. The peak incidence of Ewing’s Sarcoma is in people aged 10 - 20 years old.

  • You can’t catch Ewing’s Sarcoma from another person.
  • Ewing’s Sarcoma can’t be prevented, so it’s not because of anything you’ve done.
  • For more information on Ewing’s Sarcoma and its treatment, please see www.BCRT.org.uk.

We would like to express our appreciation to the Bone Cancer Research Trust for supplying the medical information used above.

Other Primary Bone Cancers

Chondrosarcoma

Chondrosarcoma is usually a slow-growing tumour and is most common in middle-aged people.

The cancer starts in cartilage cells, although it can also grow within a bone or on its surface. The most common places in the body for it to develop are the upper arm (humerus) or thigh bone (femur,) but it can occur in other bones such as the ribs, pelvis or shoulder blade (scapula.)

Spindle Cell Sarcoma

Spindle cell sarcoma is a rare type of bone cancer. It is similar to osteosarcoma, but tends to occur in adults over the age of 40. It’s extremely rare in people under 20.

There are four types of spindle cell sarcoma:

  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma, which is most likely to affect a bone in the leg, especially around the knee joint or in the arm.
  • Fibrosarcoma, which is most likely to affect the thigh bone (femur.)
  • Leiomyosarcoma, which usually occurs in the thigh bone (femur,) shin bone (tibia) or upper arm bone (humerus).
  • Undifferentiated sarcoma of the bone, which may arise from any bone but usually affects the arm and leg (limb) bones or the pelvis.

The four types of spindle cell sarcoma are treated in a similar way to osteosarcoma.

Chordoma

Chordoma is an extremely rare cancer, which tends to be slow growing. It starts in the bones of the spine, either in the bottom of the spine (the sacrum) or in the neck. It can occur at any age, but is more common in people in their 40s and 50s.

Angiosarcoma

Angiosarcoma can occur at any age, but it is very rare. Angiosarcomas can affect any bone. They can develop in more than one bone at the same time, or in more than one place in a single bone.

We would like to express our appreciation to Macmillan Cancer Support for the above information on other primary bone cancers, for more information please see the Macmillan website.

This webpage is for the purpose of informing and raising awareness, and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Bone Cancer Awareness Trust cannot comment on individual cases. If you are worried about any symptoms please contact your doctor.

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