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About Bone Tumors

What is a Bone Tumor?

When cells divide abnormally and uncontrollably, they can form a mass or lump of tissue. This lump is called a tumor. Bone tumors form in your bones. As the tumor grows, abnormal tissue can displace healthy tissue.

Some tumors are benign, meaning they are not cancerous. While benign bone tumors won’t spread to other parts of the body and are unlikely to cause death, they can still be dangerous and may require treatment. Benign tumors can grow and could compress your healthy bone tissue.

Other tumors are malignant, meaning they are cancerous. Malignant bone tumors can cause cancer to spread throughout the body.


Types of Benign Bone Tumors

Osteochondromas

Benign tumors are more common than malignant ones. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the most common type is osteochondroma. This type accounts for between 35 and 40 percent of all benign bone tumors (AAOS). Osteochondromas develop in adolescents and teenagers.

The tumors form near the ends of long bones, such as the arm or leg bones. Specifically, these tumors tend to affect the lower end of the thighbone (femur), the upper end of the lower leg bone (tibia) and the upper end of the upper arm bone (humerus). Basically, they are usually found at the actively growing ends of long bones.

These tumors are formed of a combination of bone and cartilage. The osteochondroma has been considered to be an abnormality of growth. A child may develop a single osteochondroma or many.
Non-Ossifying Fibroma Unicameral

Non-ossifying fibroma unicameral is a simple solitary bone cyst. It is the only true cyst of bone. It is usually found in the leg and occurs most often in children and adolescents.

Giant Cell Tumors

Giant cell tumors grow aggressively. They occur in adults and in the rounded end of the bone, not in the growth plate. These are very rare.

Enchondroma

An enchondroma is a cartilage cyst that grows inside the bone marrow. When they occur, they begin in children and persist as adults. They tend to be part of syndromes called Ollier’s and Mafucci’s syndrome. Enchondromas occur in the hands and feet as well as the long bones of the arm and thigh.
Fibrous Dysplasia

Fibrous dysplasia is a gene mutation that makes bones fibrous and vulnerable to fracture.
Aneurysmal Bone Cyst

An aneurysmal bone cyst is an abnormality of blood vessels that begins in the bone marrow. It can grow rapidly and can be particularly destructive because it affects growth plates.

Treatment for Benign Bone Tumors

If your tumor is benign, it may or may not require action. Sometimes doctors just watch benign bone tumors to see if they change. This requires coming back periodically for follow-up X-rays. Bone tumors can grow, stay the same, or eventually disappear. Children have a higher likelihood of having their bone tumors disappear as they mature.

Sometimes benign tumors spread or transform into malignant tumors. Since bone tumors can also lead to fractures, your doctor might want to surgically remove even a benign tumor.

Treatment for Malignant Bone Tumors

If your tumor is malignant, you will work closely with a team of doctors to try to cure your cancer and maintain your maximum functioning. Although malignant tumors are a cause of concern, the outlook is improving daily as treatments are developed and improved.

Your treatment will depend on what type of bone cancer you have and whether it has spread. If your cancer cells are confined to the tumor and its immediate environs, this is called the localized stage. In the metastatic stage, cancerous cells have already spread to other parts of the body. This makes curing your cancer more difficult.

Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the main strategies for treating cancer.
Surgery

Bone cancer is usually treated with surgery. Your entire tumor is removed. The surgeon carefully examines the margins of your tumor to make sure no cancer cells are left after surgery. If your bone cancer is in an arm or leg, your doctor may use what is known as limb salvage surgery. This means that while the cancerous cells are removed, your tendons, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves are spared. Your surgeon will replace the cancerous bone with a metal implant. Advances in chemotherapy have greatly improved recovery and survival. New drugs are being introduced on an ongoing basis.

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