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Can Bone Cancer Be Found Early?

There are no widely recommended screening tests for bone cancer, but many bone cancers can be found early because of the signs or symptoms they cause.

The information here focuses on primary bone cancers (cancers that start in bones) that most often are seen in adults. Information on Osteosarcoma, Ewing Tumors (Ewing sarcomas), and Bone Metastasis is covered separately.

For people at average risk

At this time, there are no widely recommended screening tests for bone cancer in people who aren’t known to be at increased risk. (Screening is testing for cancer in people without any symptoms.)

Still, most bone cancers are found at an early stage, before they have clearly spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms such as bone pain or swelling often prompt a visit to a doctor. (For more on this, see Signs and Symptoms of Bone Cancer.)

For people at higher risk

For some people who are at increased risk for bone cancer because they have certain bone conditions (listed in Risk Factors for Bone Cancer), doctors might recommend closer monitoring. Watching for early signs and symptoms can sometimes be helpful in finding bone cancer early and treating it successfully.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Anderson ME, Dubois SG, Gebhart MC. Chapter 89: Sarcomas of bone. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2020.

Last Revised: June 17, 2021

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