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Bone Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Bone cancer causes symptoms and treatment

Bone cancer is a rare but serious condition that originates in the bones, affecting both children and adults. Characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, it can lead to debilitating pain and fractures.

Understanding the types, symptoms, and treatments of bone cancer is crucial for early detection and improving patient outcomes. Let’s explore this critical health issue in this blog.

What is bone cancer?

Bone cancer refers to a variety of cancers that originate in the bones. When cancer cells invade a bone, they can damage the normal bone tissue. The specific type of bone cancer is determined by the cell and tissue where the cancer originates.

Cancers that start in the bone itself are known as primary bone cancers. Tumours that begin in other organs or body parts can also spread to the bones and are referred to as secondary or metastatic bone cancers. Breast, prostate, and lung cancers are the most common types to metastasize to the bones. 

What are the stages of bone cancer?

Staging is based on the tumor’s size, location, and whether the cancer has metastasized. Primary bone cancer is classified into four stages:

Stage 1: The tumor is low-grade, with cancer cells confined to the original site.

Stage 2: The tumor remains localized, but the cancer cells are high-grade.

Stage 3: The tumor is high-grade, and the cancer has spread within the same bone.

Stage 4: The cancer has metastasized from the bone to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or liver.

What are the types of bone cancer?

Bone cancer types vary, and the primary ones include:


  • This is the most prevalent kind of bone cancer.
  • Develops in cells forming new bone tissue
  • Usually starts at the ends of large bones (arms, legs)
  • Commonly diagnosed in children and teenagers

Ewing Sarcoma

  • It’s named after the doctor who described it
  • Includes various similar tumours
  • Forms in bones and surrounding soft tissues
  • Common in hips, ribs, shoulder blades, long bones (legs)


  •  Typically forms in arm, leg, or pelvis bones
  • More frequent in adults than younger people


  • Rare tumour in spine bones
  • Usually at the base of the spine or skull
  • More common in older adults, especially men

What are the symptoms of bone cancer?

The symptoms of bone cancer can include:

  • Pain and swelling in the affected bones
  • A firm, palpable lump in your chest, pelvis, or long bones
  • Feeling tired 
  • Bone pains that cause you to stay up at night
  • Bone ache that may develop with a little trauma
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Easily broken bones
  • Weight loss
  • Fever

Pain is the most common symptom, but not all types of bone cancer cause pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a doctor to determine the cause.

What are the causes of bone cancer?

The exact cause of bone cancer is unknown, but several factors may increase the risk, such as:

Atypical cellular growth

  • Healthy cells divide and replace older cells, then die.
  • Atypical cells continue living and form tumours

Radiation therapy

  • Used to treat bone cancer by killing dangerous cancer cells.
  • High doses of radiation may contribute to the development of osteosarcoma.

Chromosomal mutations

  • 70% of osteosarcoma cases show atypical chromosomal characteristics.
  • Genetic mutations can be inherited, result from radiation, or occur without a specific cause.

What are the complications of bone cancer?

Bone cancer can cause significant complications. These include:

  • Pain: Due to tumour growth.
  • Fractures: Cancer weakens bones, increasing fracture risk.
  • Hypercalcemia: Elevated calcium levels in the blood.
  • Reduced mobility: Pain and fractures limit movement.
  • Metastasis: Spread of cancer to other body parts.
  • Nerve damage: Tumours compress nerves, causing pain and weakness.
  • Anaemia: Bone marrow involvement leads to fatigue and weakness.

Treatment-related complications, such as side effects from chemotherapy and radiation, and surgical risks, further impact patients. Additionally, the psychological impact, including anxiety and depression, significantly affects the quality of life.

How is bone cancer diagnosed?

To diagnose bone cancer, healthcare providers typically start with X-rays to visualize the bones. For more detailed images of the surrounding areas, they often use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans before initiating any treatment.

To confirm the diagnosis, a biopsy is performed, where a small tissue sample is taken from the bone and examined under a microscope. This procedure offers specific details about the cancer, including its origin. Such information is crucial for determining the most effective treatment plan for a particular type of cancer. 

Also read: 7 Ways You Can Lower Triglycerides

What is the treatment for bone cancer?

Bone cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer, its spread, and location. A multidisciplinary team usually manages treatment, including oncologists, radiation oncologists, and orthopaedic surgeons. Treatments vary based on the cancer type, tumour size, and metastasis. The common types of treatment are:


  • Removes tumour and surrounding tissue.
  • Repairs or rebuilds bones with grafts.
  • May involve limb removal and prosthetics.
  • Repeat surgery if necessary.

Radiation therapy

  • Shrinks tumours with high-dose X-rays.
  • Often used pre-surgery to reduce tissue removal.


  • Kills cancer cells body-wide.
  • Administered via pills or injections.
  • Treats primary and metastatic bone cancers.


Bone cancer, while daunting, is met with advancing treatments and resilient spirits. Early detection and comprehensive care are key, offering hope and improved outcomes for those affected by this challenging disease. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an oncologist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult an oncologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with oncologist at the CK Birla Hospital. 


Is bone cancer curable?

Bone cancer can be curable, especially if detected early and treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. Outcomes vary based on cancer type, stage, and patient health.

Can bone cancer spread to other parts of the body?

Yes, bone cancer can metastasize to other parts of the body, commonly spreading to the lungs, liver, and other bones, complicating treatment and affecting prognosis.

What are the risk factors for developing bone cancer?

Risk factors for bone cancer include genetic conditions, previous radiation therapy, Paget’s disease of bone, and certain inherited disorders like Li-Fraumeni syndrome and hereditary retinoblastoma.

Can bone cancer be prevented?

Preventing bone cancer is challenging due to its link with genetic factors and rare conditions. Reducing radiation exposure and monitoring high-risk individuals can help with early detection and management.

What should I do if I suspect bone cancer?

If you suspect bone cancer, consult a healthcare professional promptly for a thorough evaluation, including imaging tests and possibly a biopsy, to determine the diagnosis and appropriate treatment. 


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