Bone Cancer

Bone Cancer and Related Cancers Image

Bone cancer is a malignant tumor that can eventually destroy the bone. Primary bone cancer starts in the bone. These cancers are rare, making up less than 1 percent of all cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute (2008).

Secondary bone cancer, also called bone metastasis, is cancer in the bone that has spread from another location. Even though the cancer is now in the bone, doctors still classify and treat the cancer according to where it started. For example, breast cancer that spreads into the bone is still considered and treated as breast cancer.

Primary Bone Cancer

The types of primary bone cancer are named according to where in the bone they start. The three most common primary bone cancers are osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma.

Pain is the most common, and usually the first, bone cancer symptom. Other possible cancer symptoms include:

  • Anemia (too little iron or red blood cells)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Fractures (due to weakened bone)
  • Swelling
  • Weight loss.

Specific treatment for bone cancer depends on the patient’s age and general health, along with the type, size, location and stage of the cancer. Surgery to remove the tumor is the most common treatment. A possible alternative to traditional surgery is cryosurgery, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill cancer cells. Other treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation or immunotherapy (a drug therapy to stimulate the body’s ability to fight cancer).

According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year bone cancer survival rate for all cases of bone cancer combined is about 70 percent (2010). Specific bone cancer survival rates vary based on the type of cancer and how advanced the cancer was when found.

Other Cancers Involving Bones

Bone marrow is the spongy-red material located in the center of most long bones. Bone marrow produces most of the blood cells in the body. Bone marrow cancer refers to cancer that usually develops in the stem cells of the bone marrow and includes various types of leukemia and multiple myeloma. These cancers are not the same as nor related to primary bone cancer.

Multiple myeloma, also called myeloma bone disease, is a cancer of plasma cells that attacks and destroys bone. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce antibodies. In multiple myeloma, the body produces too many clonal plasma cells. The abnormal myeloma cells amass in the bone marrow and the outer layer of the bone.

Other cancers involving bone marrow include:

Myelodysplastic syndromes is the name of a group of diseases that occur when the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells.

Myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasms occur when the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells. The three main types of myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasms are

  • Atypical Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (aCML)
  • Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML)
  • Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML).

Myeloproliferative disorders are slow-growing blood cancers. An abnormally large number of red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets grow and move into the bone marrow and the bloodstream. The six types of chronic myeloproliferative disorders are:

  • Chronic eosinophilic leukemia
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia
  • Chronic neutrophilic leukemia
  • Essential thrombocythemia
  • Polycythemia vera
  • Primary myelofibrosis.

Another cancer that can start in bone, although it most often starts in the lymph nodes, is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a cancer of the white blood cells. Even if this lymphoma does start in bone, it is treated the same as lymphoma that starts in lymph nodes, not as a primary bone cancer.


American Cancer Society. (2010). Bone cancer. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

Cancer Treatment Centers of America. (2009) Bone cancer treatments – Conventional treatments. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

National Cancer Institute. (2008). Bone cancer: Questions and answers. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

National Cancer Institute. (2010). General information about myelodysplastic syndromes. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

National Cancer Institute. (2010). General information about chronic myeloproliferative disorders. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

National Cancer Institute. (2010). General information about myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasms. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from