Primary Bone Cancer

Cancerous tumours that originate within the bone tissue

  • Most common in childhood and adolescence
  • Sometimes runs in families
  • Gender and lifestyle are not significant factors

Cancers originating in bone, known as primary bone cancers, are rare. They usually develop in children and teenagers. The causes are unknown, but some cases are associated with genetic factors. The most common site of primary bone cancer is the leg, either just above or just below the knee.

The first symptom is often painful, tender swelling of the affected area. If the cancer affects a bone in the leg, you may experience pain on standing or while you are at rest, and the pain may become worse at night. The diseased bone may fracture easily.

What might be done?

To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will probably arrange for you to have X-rays and possibly CT scanning or MRI. He or she may also arrange for you to have chest X-rays and radionuclide scanning to check if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Radiotherapy may reduce the size of the tumour. However, in most cases the tumour is removed surgically. Removed bone is replaced by artificial bone or by bone taken from elsewhere in the body or from a donor.

Following surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be given to destroy any remaining cancerous cells. Amputation of a limb is rarely necessary. Most people treated for primary bone cancer have only a small chance of recurrence in the first 5 years. After this period, recurrence is unlikely.

Primary bone cancer in the leg

This colour-enhanced CT scan of both legs reveals a primary bone cancer of one femur (thighbone) and associated swelling.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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