Primary Bone Tumors

If you’ve been diagnosed with a bone tumor, it is important to understand what you are facing and what treatment options are available to you.

About Primary Bone Tumors

Whether a bone tumor is diagnosed as primary or not can go a long way towards choosing a treatment option that allows for the most favorable outcome.

Primary bone tumors are growths that occur in the bone. They occur when the cells of the bone tissue grow out of control, creating a mass or tumor. The majority of bone tumors are benign. However, there are a few types that are cancerous. While benign tumors do not cause metastatic disease (spreading of cancer from one area of the body to another), they can still cause problems by weakening the bone’s structure.

The three most common types of primary bone tumors include chondrosarcoma, chordoma and osteosarcoma. Benign forms include hemangiomas, osteomas and aneurysmal bone cysts.

Common Symptoms of Primary Bone Tumors

Not all bone tumors create symptoms. They are often what is called an “incidental finding” on X-rays taken for other reasons. The most common symptom associated with bone tumors is some pain at or in the surrounding areas. This can be intense or simply cause a dull, achy sensation. Other symptoms of bone tumors include swelling in the area of the tumor, fever, limping and night sweats.

Diagnosis of Primary Bone Tumors

If you suspect you have a bone tumor, it’s essential that you see your doctor right away. There are a number of tests that can be performed to diagnose bone tumors. Often, imaging such as X-rays, CT scans or an MRI will be performed. Sometimes a bone scan or PET CT is ordered.

If a mass or suspicious area is present, you may need a bone biopsy. This is typically done with a needle through the skin using a CT scan to guide the needle. Once a diagnosis has been made, you can begin to plan treatment.

Treatment Options for Primary Bone Tumors

Treatment for a bone tumor is largely dependent on whether it is benign or cancerous. Benign tumors often have a characteristic appearance on imaging studies and need no treatment. Benign tumors are sometimes observed over time for changes on imaging studies to increase confidence that no treatment is needed. If they’re causing nerve compression, are compromising the structural integrity of the spine, or are growing, a biopsy or surgery may be needed.

If a cancerous primary bone tumor is identified, it will likely need to be removed through surgery. Other treatments, such as chemotherapy and/or radiation, may be pursued to ensure that the tumor doesn’t come back. This is especially useful if there is a chance of the cancer spreading into other parts of the bone or different parts of your body.

Your doctor may enlist the help of cancer specialists and surgeons to give you a wide range of treatment options.