Understanding Bone Cancer


Bone cancer is a mass or tumor of unusual cells that tend to grow in the bone. Most bone tumors are not classified as cancerous. Non-cancerous bone tumors are actually considered more common. Cancer starts when cells grow out of control. The bones make up the structural framework for the body. Bone cancer is rare, especially in adults. When we say, “bone cancer”, this does not include cancer that started elsewhere and metastasized (spread) to the bone from other cancers. Some types of bone cancer tend to affect only children, while others mostly affect adults.

How prevalent is bone cancer?

Bone cancer is rare. It is estimated that there will be roughly 3,600 new cases of bone cancer in the U.S. in 2020 alone. It is also expected that those cases will result in about 1,700 deaths . There are three common types of bone cancer: osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing tumors. Forty percent of bone cancers diagnosed in adults are chondrosarcomas. Children and teenagers are diagnosed with more osteosarcomas, which makes up 56 percent of cases diagnosed in children. The remainder of cases diagnosed are rare types.

 The interactive chart below indicates the prevalence of bone cancer by age group and gender in Virginia

Risk factors for bone cancer

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. For example, smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer. However, having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease. We do not know what causes bone cancer, but doctors found some risk factors associated with an increased risk. Doctors believe that inherited genetic syndromes (i.e. Li-Fraumenu syndrome), Paget’s disease of the bone, and radiation therapy for cancer, can all be potential precursors for bone cancer. However, most people with bone cancers do not have any apparent risk factors.

 The interactive graph below depicts the cancer incidence and mortality age-adjusted rate in Virginia.

Treatment of bone cancer

The main ways to treat bone cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Often, more than one type of treatment is used to treat bone cancer. Treatment plans will depend on the type of bone cancer and its stage. Based on treatment options, there might be different types of doctors on a treatment team. These doctors include an orthopedic surgeon, orthopedic oncologist, radiation oncologist, and medical oncologist.

The interactive pie-chart below depicts malignant bone and joints cancer incidence percentages by diagnosis stage in Virginia 


Although certain bone cancer risk factors can be avoided, it is important to keep in mind that avoiding risk factors does not guarantee that you will not get bone cancer. Some people are more sensitive than others to factors that can cause bone cancer. The best way to prevent bone cancer is to talk with your doctor about methods of bone cancer prevention that might be effective for you.

"An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure"

                                                                                                                                                                   ~ Benjamin Franklin