Bone tumors

Tumors that involve the bones can be benign or malignant (cancerous). Care for bone tumors requires the specialties of an entire team—including orthopedic surgeons, medical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, and radiation oncologists—working together to treat an individual's condition.

Benign bone tumors

Benign aneurysmal bone cyst

These tumors arise without any known cause. It is thought to be a reactive lesion that may be caused by a vascular malformation or injury. If surgery is indicated, it can be treated by scraping out the lesion and replacing it with bone graft. Sometimes, fragile bone must be augmented with plates, screws, or rods.


This is a rare, benign tumor found in long bones usually in the lower extremity. The diagnosis can be made by x-ray; sometimes a CT or MRI is indicated. Treatment consists of scraping out the bone and possible reconstruction.

Chondromyxoid fibroma

This is a benign lesion of cartilage origin. It most often occurs in the lower leg and can often be diagnosed by x-ray. It can be treated with surgery.


These benign tumors typically form in the cartilage found inside the bones. Sometimes multiple tumors can weaken the bone, causing it to fracture.

Fibrous dysplasia

This noncancerous bone condition involves the growth of abnormal fibrous tissue in place of normal bone. It can involve any bone, but most often occurs in the thigh bone, shin bone, ribs, skull, upper arm bone, and pelvis. This growth can weaken the bone, causing it to break or become deformed.

Giant cell tumor

This benign tumor grows at the ends of the body's long bones, typically at the lower end of the thigh bone or the upper end of the shin bone, close to the knee joint. While these rare tumors aren't cancerous, they can be aggressive and destroy the surrounding bone. Surgery can remove the tumor and prevent further damage.

Nonossifying fibroma

These are common developmental abnormalities that occur in 35 percent of children and are often found incidentally. They are diagnosed by X-ray and observed over time. No treatment is considered unless the lesion becomes symptomatic.


This is a benign bone lesion that may grow over time. It resembles a number of other benign lesions on x-ray and is usually addressed surgically.


These benign tumors are an abornmal growth that forms on the surface of a bone near the growth plate. The condition typically develops during childhood or adolescence. In most cases no treatment is required and the condition is monitored carefully to spot any complications.

Osteoid osteoma

This benign tumor typically develops in the long bones of the body and can cause pain and discomfort. The tumors are relatively small and characterized by growth of abnormal bone material, called osteoid bone.

Unicameral bone cyst

These lesions are most active during skeletal growth and often heal spontaneously at maturity. Many times they are without symptoms until the bone actually breaks through the cyst. If a fracture occurs, the cyst occasionally heals without surgical intervention. However, sometimes it is necessary to place bone graft in the cyst to aid in healing and prevent future breaks.

Cancerous bone tumors


Sarcomas are divided into two categories: soft tissue tumors and bone tumors. Each of those categories is further broken down into dozens of different kinds of cancers.

Thirty years ago the treatment of bone sarcoma was essentially confined to amputation. Today, more than 95% of bone sarcoma cases involve limb salvage surgery. Orthopedic tumor surgeon Ben Miller, MD explains what makes limb salvage surgery possible in this video.

Ewing sarcoma

Ewing sarcoma is a malignant (cancerous) bone tumor that affects children. It can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, bone marrow, and other tissues. The cancer begins when changes take place in a cell's chromosomes, but there are no known reasons for how the process is set in motion.

Malignant chondrosarcoma

These tumors can occur in any location; however, they are most commonly located in the pelvis, femur, tibia, and humerus. These often can be diagnosed with an x-ray, but a CT or MRI may be helpful. These tumors are treated by surgical removal.

Metastatic bone disease

When cancer starts in another part of the body and moves to the bones, it is called metastatic bone disease. The most common cancers that can spread to bone include breast, lung, thyroid, kidney, and prostate. Metastatic bone disease typically causes pain and weakens bones.

Multiple myeloma

Patients with multiple myeloma develop an excessive number of abnormal plasma cells in their bone marrow. The cancerous plasma cells multiply, building up in the marrow and crowding out normal, healthy blood cells. This buildup of myeloma cells can lead to various medical problems and complications, like a reduction in blood cell production, damage to the surrounding bones, organ damage, and problems with blood clotting and circulation.


In this rare type of bone caner, malignant cells produce irregular bone, usually at the ends of the long bones, near the knee and in the shoulder.

Last reviewed: 
March 2018
Alternative Names: 
bone cancer

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