Oncowin Cancer Center

What Are the Different Types of Bone Cancer?

Cancer starts when cells grow uncontrollably. These cancerous cells can form in any part of the body and can spread to other areas. Bone cancer is a rare but serious condition that begins when cells in the bone grow uncontrollably. 

This can start directly in the bone (primary bone cancer) or spread to the bone from another part of the body (secondary or metastatic bone cancer). Learning a little about normal bone tissue can help you understand bone cancer better. 

Here, we will explore the various types of bone cancer, their symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Types of Bone Cancer


Osteosarcoma, also known as osteogenic sarcoma cancer, is the most common type of bone cancer. It primarily affects the long bones in the arms and legs, particularly around the knee and the shoulder. 

It usually starts when bone cells are still growing. Osteosarcoma cancer is more often found in young people, between the ages of 10 and 30. However, about 1 in every 10 cases happens in people aged 60 and older. 

It’s very rare in middle-aged adults. They begin in the early stages of bone cells and are more common in men.


Chondrosarcoma is the second most common primary bone cancer and begins in the cartilage cells. Cartilage is a tough, flexible tissue that covers the ends of bones at the joints. 

It’s rare in people under 20 and becomes more likely as you get older. Chondrosarcoma cancer can start anywhere with cartilage. Some begin in the trachea, larynx, chest wall, shoulder blades, ribs, or skull.

Ewing Sarcoma

Ewing sarcoma is a rare cancer that typically affects children, teens, and young adults. This type of cancer is named after Dr. James Ewing, who first described it in the 1920s. 

Ewing sarcoma cancer is rare in adults over 30. They usually start in bones but can also develop in other tissues or organs. Common sites include the hip bones, chest wall (ribs or shoulder blades), spine bones, and long leg bones.


Chordoma is a very bone tumor that occurs in the bones of the spine, particularly at the base of the skull and in the lower back. This type of cancer primarily affects adults over the age of 30. 

Chordoma cancer grows slowly and can be difficult to treat because they are located near critical structures in the spine and skull.


Fibrosarcoma is a rare type of cancer that usually starts in soft tissues, not bones. It often happens in the legs, arms, and jaw. This cancer is more common in adults who are 50 years old or older.

Giant cell tumor of bone

These cancers are most common in adults in their 20s and 30s. They can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Giant cell bone tumors usually occur in the legs (near the knees) or arms. 

They rarely spread elsewhere but can come back, even multiple times after surgery. With each recurrence, there’s a higher chance the tumor might spread, usually to the lungs. A malignant giant cell bone tumor almost never spreads without first coming back locally.


Adamantinoma is a rare type of cancer that starts in bones, making up only 1% of primary bone cancers. It’s more common in men after their bones are fully grown. These tumors usually form lumps in the shin bone (tibia) or the fibula bones (the second bone in the lower leg), but they can also appear in other bones.

They grow slowly but can harm nearby bone and, if large enough, invade surrounding muscles. In 15% to 20% of cases, they spread to other body parts, mainly the lungs and sometimes lymph nodes or other bones.

Most commonly affected patients are between 20 to 50 years old, though in females, it can appear earlier, between 11 and 30 years old, and in males between 20 to 50 years old, with cases ranging from 3 to 86 years old.

Symptoms of Bone Cancer

The symptoms of bone cancer can vary depending on the type and location of the cancer. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain: Bone pain that sticks around or gets worse, especially at night.
  • Swelling: Swelling or a lump over a bone.
  • Fractures: When you have cancer, your bones can break more easily.
  • Fatigue: Feeling very tired without a clear reason.
  • Weight Loss: Losing weight without trying.
  • Reduced Mobility: Struggling to move an arm or leg near the sore bone.

Diagnosis of Bone Cancer

Your doctor may use the following testing for bone cancer to determine the stage of bone cancer:

  1. Medical History and Physical Exam: The doctor will ask about symptoms and perform a physical examination.
  2. Imaging Tests: X-rays, MRI, CT scans, and bone scans can help visualize the tumor and determine its extent.
  3. Biopsy: A sample of tissue is removed from the tumor and examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis and determine the type of cancer.
  4. Genetic Testing: In some cases, genetic tests may be conducted to identify specific mutations associated with bone cancer.

Treatment Options for Bone Cancer

Once diagnosed, your doctor will determine the best course of treatment based on the stage and type of bone cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are typically used to combat this disease.


The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and surrounding bone tissue. In some cases, limb-sparing surgery can be performed to save the limb, while in other situations amputation of the limb may be necessary. 

Surgery is often combined with chemotherapy or radiation for the best outcome.


Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. It may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy can also help prevent the recurrence of bone cancer. 

The drugs are usually given through a vein (IV), as a pill, or both. Unfortunately, chemotherapy also destroys healthy cells and can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It may be used before or after surgery, often in combination with chemotherapy. While radiation only targets the tumor site, it can still cause side effects like fatigue, nausea, and skin irritation. 

Newer radiation techniques like intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and proton beam therapy reduce damage to healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It may be used before or after surgery, often in combination with chemotherapy. While radiation only targets the tumor site, it can still cause side effects like fatigue, nausea, and skin irritation. 

Newer radiation techniques like intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and proton beam therapy reduce damage to healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.


Immunotherapy uses your body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Some types stimulate your immune system to work better or harder against cancer cells. Immunotherapy is often used when other treatments aren’t working. Side effects can include rashes, tiredness, and flu-like symptoms.

Depending on your specific situation, you may receive one, two, or all three of these treatment options. Treatment typically involves cycles of multiple modalities over a period of weeks or months. 

Talk to your doctor about which options are best for you based on the details of your unique diagnosis.


Bone cancer starting in the bone itself is rare. But if cancer spreads, it can affect the bones. There are different types of bone cancer, each affecting different bones. They share some symptoms and treatments.

Doctors need to know the stage of the cancer before they can plan treatment. They look at where the tumor is and if the cancer has spread.

Certain things increase the risk of bone cancer, like smoking or past radiation treatment.

To diagnose bone cancer, doctors check symptoms and do tests like X-rays or blood tests. Then they suggest treatment based on the type and stage of cancer. Treatment can include drugs, radiation, or surgery. 

People can talk to their doctor, family, or friends, or reach out to top cancer hospitals like Oncowin for help with diagnosis and treatment planning. 

Oncowin has a dedicated team of cancer specialists and staff available around the clock to provide the best possible treatment for cancer patients. 

Remember, “In the fight against cancer, every consultation counts.”

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