Bone cancer, bone metastasis, benign bone tumors: treatment

Bone is the hard, almost inflexible tissue that makes up the body skeleton. It holds the body upright, envelops and protects the internal structures. Growths in a bone can be benign or malignant (bone cancer). What are the causes and symptoms? How can benign bone tumors, primary bone cancer or bone metastases be treated and what is the prognosis?

Article content

  • Bone
  • Benign bone tumors (symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis)
  • Primary Bone Cancer (Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis)
  • Bone metastasis or secondary bone cancer (causes, symptoms, treatment, prognosis)


Bone is living tissue with nerves and blood vessels. Bone is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. Bone can become less strong due to various factors: hormonal and nutritional factors, certain long-term diseases, medications or prolonged bed rest.

Benign bone tumors (symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis)

It concerns growths, but not cancer, that lead to pain in the bone. The bone can also change shape.

Who does it occur to?

It is most common in children and young adults. Almost never over forty years of age.

Where in the body?

They can occur in any part of the bone, but especially in the long bones of the limbs.

Symptoms of benign tumors

  • There may be pain in the part affected.
  • The bone can increase in size and change shape.
  • The bone that is affected can break more quickly.
  • If there is pressure on the nerves, it can cause tingling or loss of sensation.
  • If the tumor presses on a tendon, you may have pain when you move.
  • Exercise can cause problems.

Diagnosis of benign tumors

The diagnosis can be made by X-ray examination, MRI scan or scintigram. To assess whether it is a benign or malignant tumor, a piece of bone can be removed. This is then examined microscopically.

Treatment of benign tumors

Surgical intervention may be necessary if someone has pain or if the bone takes on a different shape or increases in size. Subsequently, bone transplantation may be required. This bone can be your own bone (from another place in the body), but it can also be artificial bone or bone from another person (donor).

Prognosis of benign tumors

The tumor may come back again, which will require another surgical procedure.

Primary Bone Cancer (Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis)

Malignant growths that arise in bone tissue. Primary bone cancer involves tumors that arise in the bone. This does not happen often, in the Netherlands about one hundred and fifty cases per year.

Who does it affect and where in the body does it occur?

It is most common in children, but also in young adults.
Primary bone cancer usually strikes in the leg, just above or just below the knee.

Types of primary bone cancer

Primary bone cancer means that the cancer has originated from the bone or the bone cells themselves.
This includes, among others:

  • Osteosarcoma;
  • Chondrosarcoma (cartilage cancer);
  • Kahler’s disease (bone marrow cancer).

Causes of bone cancer

Sometimes hereditary elements play a role.

Bone cancer symptoms

  • The complaints usually start with swelling that is painful or tender.
  • If there is bone cancer in a leg, you may experience pain when standing but also at rest.
  • The pain may worsen during the night.
  • The bone that was affected may break more quickly.

Bone cancer diagnosis

The doctor will perform an X-ray examination or a CT scan, MRI scan. X-rays of the chest can be performed to see whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Before treatment, it is important to know which type of bone cancer it is. A small piece of bone is removed and examined microscopically.

Bone cancer treatment

The tumor is usually removed by surgery. The bone can be replaced with artificial bone, bone from another part of the body or bone from a donor. After surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be prescribed. This is to destroy any cancer cells that have not yet disappeared. Fortunately, amputation of the affected body part is almost never necessary.

Bone cancer prognosis

The cancer may return within five years, after which recurrence is not likely (but it is possible).

Bone metastasis or secondary bone cancer (causes, symptoms, treatment, prognosis)

Bone metastasis involves malignant tumors/cancer in the bone that has spread from somewhere else in the body.

Who does it affect and where in the body does it occur?

It is more common in older people. Metastases often show up in the spine, pelvis, ribs, skull or long bones. It is much more common than primary bone cancer, especially in the elderly, where other cancers are more likely to occur.

Forms of cancer that most often spread to bone

  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

Symptoms of bone metastasis

  • A gnawing pain in the bone that can worsen during the night.
  • The part of the bone that is affected may swell.
  • The area above the affected part may be tender.
  • Bones that are affected can break more quickly, for example after a minor injury.

Treatment of bone metastasis

If it is not yet known where the primary cancer is located, this location will have to be found. The treatment can then be focused on this primary cancer. Chemotherapy can be used as treatment, radiotherapy or hormone therapy is also possible. The pain in the bone can usually be treated effectively.

Prognosis bone metastasis

The future outlook for someone with bone metastases depends on what type the original cancer is. Also of the treatment options for this primary cancer. The aim is to achieve a temporary reduction of the cancer and, if possible, more.