About Bone Sarcoma


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Bone sarcomas are rare diseases in which cancerous cells form in the bone. These types of cancers are seen most often in children and young adults.

Types of Bone Sarcoma

Here are some of the bone sarcomas we diagnose and treat at Huntsman Cancer Institute and Primary Children’s Hospital:

  • Ewing sarcoma forms from a certain kind of cell in bone or soft tissue. It may be found in the bones of the legs, arms, feet, hands, chest, pelvis, spine, or skull. Ewing sarcoma may also be found in the soft tissue of the trunk, arms, legs, head and neck, abdomen, or other areas.
  • Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer. It usually starts in osteoblasts, which are a type of bone cell that becomes new bone tissue.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of bone cancers:

  • Bone or joint pain
  • Fractures or breaks in the bone for no known reason
  • Swelling over a bone or bony part

Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about Ewing sarcoma or osteosarcoma from the National Cancer Institute.

Image of Bone Anatomy

anatomical drawing of a bone

Osteosarcoma usually starts in osteoblasts, which are a type of bone cell that becomes new bone tissue. It commonly forms in the ends of the long bones of the body, which include bones of the arms and legs. 

Specialties & Treatments

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the bone sarcoma, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common types of treatment: 

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted (Samarium) therapy

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Sarcoma Service specializes in diagnosing and treating cancers of the bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, and soft tissues in people of all ages.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments and cancer screenings.

Find a Bone Sarcoma Doctor

Causes & Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

These are risk factors for getting osteosarcoma:

  • Previous radiation therapy or treatment with anticancer drugs called alkylating agents
  • A family history of osteosarcoma
  • Changes in certain genes that increase the risk of osteosarcoma cells such as the retinoblastoma gene
  • These conditions:
    • Bloom syndrome
    • Diamon-blackfan anemia
    • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
    • Paget disease
    • Rothmund-Thomson syndrome
    • Werner syndrome

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and about family history and genetic counseling.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Bone Sarcoma

Doctors use these tests to diagnose bone cancers:

  • Physical exam and history: A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
  • Imaging tests: Using dyes, x-rays, magnets, radio waves and/or computer technology, your health care provider can create detailed images of internal organs. Your health care provider may inject or have you swallow a dye to help see the images.
  • Biopsy: The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. 

Stages of Bone Sarcoma

Staging is the process that shows whether bone sarcoma has spread to other parts of the body. Cancer spreads in the body in three ways: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

Bone cancer cells are often categorized in these ways:

  • Localized: The cancer has not spread out of the bone where it started.
  • Metastatic: The cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if osteosarcoma cells spread to the liver, the cancer cells in the liver are actually osteosarcoma cells. The disease is metastatic osteosarcoma, not liver cancer.

Learn more about the stages of Ewing sarcoma or osteosarcoma from the National Cancer Institute.