About Bone Sarcoma (Osteosarcoma)

Nationally Recognized

Among the top in cancer research and care. The only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West.

U.S. News badge

Cancer Care

Top 1% in patient satisfaction

About Bone Sarcoma (Osteosarcoma)

Osteosarcoma and malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH) are diseases in which cancerous cells form in the bone.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of osteosarcoma and MFH:

  • 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 osteosarcoma and MFH 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 for osteosarcoma and MFH: 

  • 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

Please enter a valid zip code or city, state.

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 or MFH:

  • Previous radiation therapy or treatment with anticancer drugs called alkylating agents
  • A family history of osteosarcoma or MFH
  • 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 Osteosarcoma

Doctors use these tests to diagnose osteosarcoma and MFH:

  • 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 Osteosarcoma

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.

Osteosarcoma or MFH 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 and MFH cells spread to the liver, the cancer cells in the liver are actually osteosarcoma or MFH cells. The disease is metastatic osteosarcoma or MFH cells, not liver cancer.

Learn more about the stages of osteosarcoma and MFH from the National Cancer Institute.