Bone Cancer

About Bone Cancer

Primary bone cancer starts in the cells of the bone; where bone cells become cancerous.

Common symptoms include pain in a particular area, which is often worse at night. There could be swelling, high temperature, fatigue and difficulty to move around.

Primary cancers of the bones account for less than 0.2% of all cancers. In adults, over 40% of primary bone cancers are chondrosarcomas. This is followed by osteosarcomas (28%), chordomas (10%), Ewing sarcoma (8%) and malignant fibrous histiocytoma / fibrosarcoma (4%). The remainder of cases are several rare types of bone cancers. In children and teenagers (those younger than 20 years), osteosacroma (56%) and Ewing tumours (34%) are much more common than shondrosarcoma (6%).

Types of bone cancers include:

  1. Osteosarcoma: It is the most common type of primary bone cancer found in teenagers and young adults. They can grow anywhere in the skeleton. The most common sites are:
    • around the knee
    • lower thigh bone (femur)
    • upper shin bone (tibia)
    • around the shoulder
    • upper arm bone (humerus)
  2. Ewing’s sarcoma: It is most common among teenagers. It usually starts in the pelvis (hips), thigh (femur) or shin (tibia) bones. Ewing’s tumours occur in the soft tissue as well, called as soft tissue sarcomas. These are treated in the same way as Ewing’s bone tumours.
  3. Chondrosarcoma: It is most often found in adults between 30 – 60 years of age. It is cancer of the cartilage cells within the bone. It can grow either inside a bone or on the bone surface. The most common sites are:
    • hips (pelvis)
    • thigh bone (femur)
    • upper arm (humerus)
    • shoulder blade (scapula)
    • ribs

Once bone tumour has been diagnosed, doctors will determine the stage of cancer and whether or not it is metastatic; based on which doctors would be able to devise a treatment plan. Treatments include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and proton beam therapy.


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our experts

Dr Chetan Anchan

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgical Oncologist

Dr Charles Lowdell

Consultant Clinical Oncologist



Surgery: This is recommended to either remove cancer, or to relive its symptoms. Patients could have limb saving surgery or surgery where part pf the diseased bone is removed.

Chemotherapy: This is given by administrating drugs intravenously (IV), intra-arterially (IA) or via intra – peritoneal (IP) injections to destroy cancer cells. This treatment can last up to many weeks.

Radiotherapy: This is performed by directing radiation beams at the targeted area, and like chemotherapy this treatment usually requires multiple sessions which are performed over a series of weeks.

Targeted Therapy: This is performed by administrating a number of drugs to the patient which will target certain components of the cancer cells.

Proton Beam Therapy: This is a type of radiation therapy. It uses protons rather than x-rays to treat cancer. Proton beam therapy has had promising results with reduced side effects compared to radiation.

Treatments are often used in combination with each other, particularly is the cancer is advanced and surgery is being performed. Chemotherapy may often be used before surgery to shrink the tumour or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that could not be removed during surgery.

You may experience vomiting, nausea, hair loss, fatigue & body pain during treatment. Please do not hesitate to discuss this further with your doctor, for more information on the management of any symptoms.


  • Most patients require a post – surgical recovery period of up to 4- 6 weeks. Speak to your surgeon to understand the amount of recovery you would need following your treatment.
  • Physiotherapy exercises form an integral part of post-surgical rehabilitation. These are particularly important to prevent stiffness in the shoulder and neck.
  • Appropriate rest is also important during this period.
  • If there is pain and discomfort then please speak to your doctor for its management.

length of stay

Hospital Stay:     3-7 days for surgery

Total Stay:           Depending upon treatment the length of stay can wary from 2 weeks to a few months

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