PDFs by language
Our 24/7 cancer helpline provides support for people dealing with cancer. We can connect you with trained cancer information specialists who will answer questions about a cancer diagnosis and provide guidance and a compassionate ear.
Chat live online
Select the Live Chat button at the bottom of the page
At our National Cancer Information Center trained Cancer Information Specialists can answer questions 24 hours a day, every day of the year to empower you with accurate, up-to-date information to help you make educated health decisions. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with valuable services and resources.
Or ask us how you can get involved and support the fight against cancer. Some of the topics we can assist with include:
For medical questions, we encourage you to review our information with your doctor.
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.
There are different types of primary bone cancer. Signs and symptoms depend mainly on the type, location, and extent of the cancer.
Pain in the area of the tumor is the most common sign of bone cancer. At first, the pain might not be there all the time. It may get worse at night or when the bone is used, such as when walking for a tumor in a leg bone. Over time, the pain can become more constant, and it might get worse with activity.
Sometimes a tumor can weaken a bone to the point where it breaks (fractures), which can cause a sudden onset of intense pain (see Fractures below).
Some bone tumors cause a lump or swelling in the area, although this might not happen until sometime after the area becomes painful.
Cancers in the bones of the neck can sometimes cause a lump in the back of the throat that can lead to trouble swallowing or breathing.
Bone cancer can weaken the bone, but most often the bones do not fracture (break). People with a fracture next to or through a bone tumor usually describe sudden severe pain in a bone that had been sore for a few months.
Cancer in the bones of the spine can press on the nerves coming out of the spinal cord. This can cause numbness and tingling or even weakness in different parts of the body, depending on where the tumor is.
Bone cancer, like many other types of cancer, can sometimes cause weight loss and fatigue.
If the cancer spreads to other organs, it can also cause other symptoms. For instance, if the cancer spreads to the lungs, it might result in a cough or trouble breathing.
Bone cancer isn’t common, and the symptoms it can cause are more likely to be due to other conditions, such as injuries or arthritis. Still, if you have symptoms that go on for a long time or get worse, it’s important to see a doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
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 journalists, 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.
Hornicek FJ, McCarville B, Agaram N. Bone tumors: Diagnosis and biopsy techniques. UpToDate. 2020. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/bone-tumors-diagnosis-and-biopsy-techniques on August 28, 2020.
Last Revised: June 17, 2021
American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.