What is bone cancer?

Types of bone cancer

There are different types of bone cancer. Most of this information is for all types.

The most common types to affect teenagers and young adults are osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. Both are more common in young men than in young women.

If you have a different type of bone cancer and want to know more, please contact us.


Osteosarcomas are most likely to affect bones in the leg, especially around the knee. But they can affect any bone.

Ewing sarcoma

Ewing sarcoma can affect any bone. But it is most common in the pelvis (the tail bone and the hip bones) or in leg bones. Ewing sarcoma sometimes starts outside the bone, in the soft tissue. This is called soft tissue Ewing sarcoma, but it 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.


We do not know what causes bone cancer. It is more common in young people. Doctors think there may be a link between bone cancer and the changes that happen when bones are growing. Research is looking at possible reasons for this.

People worry that a knock or injury might have caused bone cancer. But there is no evidence for this.

Remember that nothing you have done has caused the cancer.

Signs and symptoms of bone cancer

Bone cancer symptoms vary, and not everyone will have the same ones. Many symptoms are similar to everyday aches and pains. You might mistake them for other things like strains, sports injuries or growing pains.

The main symptoms include:

  • Aches or pains that do not go away. Exercise might make this worse, or it may feel worse at night. If bone pain at night does not get better, it is important to get it checked by a doctor.
  • Swelling around the affected bone. Swelling may not show up until a tumour is quite large. You may not always see or feel a lump if the affected bone is deep inside the body.
  • Reduced movement. Sometimes, the bone cancer is near a joint (like an elbow or knee). This can make it harder to move the joint. If the cancer is in a leg bone, it may cause a limp.
  • Numbness or tingling. If the cancer is in the backbone (spine), it may press on nerves. This can cause tingling and numbness in the legs or arms.
  • A broken bone. If cancer has weakened a bone, it may break suddenly. Or it may break after a minor fall or accident.

Other symptoms

There might also be other symptoms, including:

  • tiredness
  • a high temperature
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss.

If you have any of these symptoms or you are worried, you should see your doctor for a check-up. They can talk to you about your symptoms and arrange tests if you need them.

Remember, most people with these symptoms do not have bone cancer.

Back to Bone cancer

The bones

Knowing what your bones do might help you understand what bone cancer is.