5 Common Symptoms of Bone Cancer

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Bone cancer refers to tumors that develop in the bones’ interior and disrupt healthy bone tissue. Bone tumors can occur in any bone of the body but are most often in the pelvis or long bones of the arms and legs. It can also travel, or metastasize, to other bones or parts of the body. Most often, bone tumors are benign, noncancerous, and not life-threatening. The following list includes important symptoms of bone cancer to look out for.

If cancer spreads from another part of the body to the bones, it is named for the tissue where it began, as opposed to primary bone cancer that originates in the bones. Primary malignant bone cancer represents less than 1% of cancer diagnoses. This type of cancer affects approximately 3,000 individuals of all ages in the United States annually. 

While malignant bone cancer is rare, treatment must begin as soon as possible to prevent tumors from spreading and destroying bone tissue. Symptoms of bone cancer can often be mistaken for other bone and muscle conditions. So, it is important for anyone experiencing unusual symptoms to talk to their doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Bone Pain

Bone pain is the most common symptom of bone cancer. In the early stages, bone pain remains localized in the affected bone and may only occur intermittently or at night. As the tumor grows, bone pain often becomes more constant and worsens with walking or physical activity.

Swelling and Tenderness

In some cases of bone cancer, the tumor can create a visible lump at its growth site. When swelling does occur, it presents in the area of the affected bones. It may not be noticeable until the later stages of the disease. The skin may also appear reddened or feel tender when pressed. If the cancer is in the neck, the swelling or mass can make it difficult to swallow.

Bone Fractures

Malignancies in the bone tissue can cause the bones to weaken, which increases the risk of bone fractures. Bone fractures caused by bone cancer are most common in the arms and legs. In many cases, the severe pain caused by a fractured bone is the first physical symptom of bone cancer. 

Numbness and Tingling

Bone cancers that develop in the spinal area often cause compression of the spinal nerves. This can lead to numbness and tingling of the legs and arms. The compression may also cause back pain and a tingling sensation in the abdomen. People with spinal cord bone tumors may have difficulty passing urine or bowel movements.

Weight Loss and Exhaustion

Like many other cancers, malignancies of the bones can cause weight loss as the disease progresses. Individuals with bone cancer may also experience exhaustion, unexplained fever, or extreme fatigue as their bodies attempt to fight the illness. The pain and fatigue associated with this type of cancer can significantly interfere with daily movement and activities.

Next Steps

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs of bone cancer, it is important to see a doctor immediately. They may recommend blood testing, x-rays, or other types of imaging to determine if there is any concerning tissue growth within the bone. If bone cancer is diagnosed, treatment depends on the size and location of the malignancy and the cancer stage. Treatment options include surgery to remove the tumors and affected tissues, chemotherapy, radiation, and cryosurgery treatments that work to freeze cancerous cells.

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