Bone Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Signs and symptoms of bone cancer

Pain

Pain in the affected bone is the most common complaint of patients with bone cancer. At first, the pain is not constant. It may be worse at night or when the bone is used (for example, leg pain when walking). As the cancer grows, the pain will be there all the time. The pain increases with activity and the person might limp if a leg is involved.

Swelling

Swelling in the area of the pain may not occur until weeks later. It might be possible to feel a lump or mass depending on the location of the tumor.

Cancers in the bones of the neck can cause a lump in the back of the throat that can lead to trouble swallowing or make it hard to breathe.

Fractures

Bone cancer can weaken the bone it develops in, but most of the time the bones do not fracture (break). People with a fracture next to or through a bone cancer usually describe sudden severe pain in a limb that had been sore for a few months.

Other symptoms

Cancer in the bones of the spine can press on nerves, leading to numbness and tingling or even weakness.

Cancer can cause weight loss and fatigue. If the cancer spreads to internal organs it may cause other symptoms, too. For example, if the cancer spreads to the lung, you may have trouble breathing.

Any of these symptoms are more often due to conditions other than cancer, such as injuries or arthritis. Still, if these problems go on for a long time without a known reason, you should see your doctor.


Last Medical Review: 03/21/2014
Last Revised: 04/21/2014