Types of primary bone cancer

Primary bone cancer is rare. It can affect anyone at any age but is slightly more common in men. There are different types of bone cancer. The most common ones include:

  • Osteosarcoma – is the most common type of primary bone cancer and is most likely to develop in leg or upper arm bones.
  • Ewing’s sarcoma – is more common in teenagers and children, but can occur at any age. It can start in any bone but is more frequent in the pelvis, shin and thigh bone. Extraosseous Ewing’s sarcoma starts in the soft tissues of the body.
  • Chondrosarcoma – is a slow-growing tumour, most common in middle-aged people.
  • Spindle cell sarcoma – is similar to osteosarcoma but is more likely to affect people over 40.
  • Chordoma – is usually a slow-growing cancer that starts in the bones of the spine.
  • Angiosarcoma – usually affects the soft tissues but can sometimes develop in bone. It can develop in more than one bone at the same time.

Primary bone cancer

Primary bone cancer is rare. About 600 people are diagnosed with it in the UK each year. It can occur at any age and is slightly more common in men than women. There are several different types. If your cancer is not one of those described here, contact our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00. They will be able to give you more information about it.

Secondary bone cancer is far more common than primary bone cancer. We have more information about secondary bone cancer and its treatment.


Sarcomas

Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of primary bone cancer. It’s most common in teenagers, young adults and adults in their 60s, but people of any age can be affected. It can occur in any bone, but is most likely to develop around the knee, in the thigh bone (femur), in the shin bone (tibia) or in the upper arm (humerus).

Ewing’s sarcoma

Ewing’s sarcoma is named after the surgeon who first described it. It is more common in teenagers and young adults, but it can occur at any age. It’s more likely to occur in young children than osteosarcoma is.

Any bone can be affected, but the most common sites are the pelvis, thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). It’s also possible for Ewing’s sarcoma to start in the soft tissues of the body. This is called extraosseous Ewing’s sarcoma (extra means outside, osseous means bone), or soft tissue Ewing’s sarcoma.

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 inside a bone or on its surface. The most common places for it to develop are the upper arm (humerus) or thigh bone (femur), but it can develop 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 normally occurs in adults over the age of 40. It’s extremely rare in people under 20. When spindle cell sarcoma is in a bone, it’s treated in a similar way to osteosarcoma. You may hear words like leiomyosarcoma or malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH) used to describe spindle cell sarcoma.

Chordoma

Chordoma is a rare cancer, which is normally slow-growing. It starts in the bones of the spine. It may be in the bottom of the spine (the sacrum), in the neck or in the bones at the bottom of the skull. It can occur at any age, but is more common in people over 40.

Angiosarcoma

Angiosarcoma can occur at any age. It usually affects the soft tissues, but rarely it can develop in bone. 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.


Back to Understanding primary bone cancer

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

The Bones

The human skeleton is made up of more than 200 bones that support and protect the body.

Why do cancers come back?

Sometimes, tiny cancer cells are left behind after cancer treatment. These can divide to form a new tumour.