This section is for teenagers and young adults and is about bone cancer. There are different types of bone cancer, and most of this information applies to all types. But if you have a rare type of bone cancer and want to know more, you could talk to us.
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There are different types of bone cancer. The two most common kinds to affect young people are osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.
The word ‘sarcoma’ means a cancer that starts in connective tissue, such as bone, muscle, fat or cartilage.
We have more information about these types of bone cancer, and about the bones and connective tissue.
In this information we sometimes use the term ‘bone tumour’. This means the same as bone cancer.
Signs and symptoms of bone cancer
Bone cancer symptoms vary, and not everyone will feel the same. Many symptoms are similar to everyday aches and pains, so they can be mistaken for other things, like strains, sports injuries or even growing pains.
These are the main symptoms:
Pain - this is the most common symptom. You may feel tenderness around the affected area, or notice an ache that doesn't go away and feels worse at night. If bone pain at night doesn’t get better, it’s important to get this checked out by your GP.
A lump or swelling around the affected bone. Not everyone will have a noticeable lump or swelling though, especially if the tumour’s in a bone that’s deeper inside the body (such as the pelvis).
Reduced movement. If the bone tumour’s near a joint (like an elbow or knee), it can make it harder to move the joint and the affected arm or leg. If it’s in a leg bone, it may cause a limp. If it’s in the backbone (spine), it may press on nerves and cause tingling and numbness in the legs or arms.
A broken bone. A bone may break suddenly, or after only a minor fall or accident. This can happen if the bone has been weakened by cancer.
There might also be other symptoms:
a high temperature
loss of appetite
If you have any of these symptoms, or are worried that you may have a bone tumour, the first thing to do is to see your family doctor (GP). They'll examine you and refer you to a hospital if they think you need to see a specialist doctor.
Remember - most people with the symptoms listed here won’t have bone cancer.
We don’t know what causes bone cancer. But because it’s more common in young people, doctors think that it might have something to do with the changes that happen when the bones are growing.
People often think a knock or injury might have caused bone cancer, but there’s no evidence for this.
Remember that nothing you’ve done has caused the cancer.
If you're worried about bone cancer
If you think you might have some of these symptoms you should go straight to your GP. They'll be able to talk to you about your symptoms, and if they think they could be because of cancer they can do tests to find out more.