This section about bone cancer is for teenagers and young adults. There are different types of bone cancer, and most of this information applies to all types. If you have a rare type of bone cancer and
want to know more, you could talk to us.
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Types of bone cancer
There are different types of bone cancer. The two most common bone cancers to affect teenagers are osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.
Osteosarcomas are most likely to affect bones in the leg, especially around the knee joint, but they can affect any bone.
Ewing sarcoma can affect any bone, but it’s most common in the pelvis (which is made up of the tail bone and the two hip bones), or in leg bones. Ewing sarcoma can sometimes start outside the bone in the soft tissue. This is called soft tissue Ewing sarcoma, and is treated in the same way. Sarcoma is the name for a cancer that starts in any connective tissue, such as muscle, fat or cartilage.
In this information we sometimes use the term ‘bone tumour’. This means the same as bone cancer.
Causes of bone cancer
We don’t know what causes bone cancer. Because it’s more common in young people, doctors think that it may be linked to the changes that happen when bones are growing. There is lots of ongoing research into the possible causes.
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.
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 growing pains.
The main symptoms are:
- Pain or tenderness. This may start as an ache that doesn’t go away. It may be made worse by exercise or feel worse at night. If bone pain at night doesn’t get better, it’s important to get this checked out by your GP.
- Swelling around the affected area of bone. Swelling may not show up until the tumour is quite large. It isn’t always possible to see or feel a lump if the affected bone is deep inside the body.
- Reduced movement. If the bone tumour is near a joint (like an elbow or knee), it can make it harder to move the joint. 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
- weight loss.
If you have any of these symptoms, or you are worried that you may have a bone tumour, you should get it checked by your GP. They can talk to you about your symptoms, and arrange tests if they feel they’re needed.
Remember - most people with the symptoms listed here won’t have bone cancer.