Types of Bone Cancer

Understand the different types of bone cancer

As one of the rarer types of cancer, bone cancer sees approximately 2,300 cases annually and constitutes less than 1 percent of all forms. Because it is so rare, medical researchers still do not have a clear idea of all the causes, although they have found a link between the occurrence of bone cancer and individuals who have received high-dose radiation therapy. Now, let's understand the types of bone cancer.

There are also a variety of different types of bone cancer, each of which are more likely to occur in different populations. Understanding the specific type of bone cancer will not only shed light onto the disease you are facing, but also offers a more clear treatment path for you and your doctor.

Children are also known to be particularly susceptible to the different types of bone cancer. See the descriptions below for an overview of each of the different kinds, how they effect the body, and what populations are most vulnerable.


This is the most common type of bone cancer and usually starts spreading from the legs, pelvis, or arms. It is more common in men than in women, and usually affects individuals between the ages of 10 and 19. However, older adults who have related conditions, such as Paget disease are at a higher risk for osteosarcoma.


Most common in older adults, those over 40, Chondrosarcoma is the second most common type of bone cancer. Cases in patients under the age of 20 are very rare and the likelihood increases with age. This variety of cancer is distinct in that it forms in the cartilage around the bones.

Ewing Tumor

Sometimes called Ewing's sarcoma, this is the third most common form of bone cancer, which is seen most commonly in individuals under the age of 30. It belongs to a family of tumors which occur in bone, but also in soft tissue such as blood vessels, muscle, fat, and fibrous tissue. The forms of cancer in this family of diseases are seen along the spine and in the pelvic region.


Usually found in older adults, Fibrosarcoma describes cancer that forms in the tissues surrounding bone, including tendons, ligaments, fat, or muscle. Specifically, it forms in these tissues within the arms, legs, and jaw.

Giant Cell Tumor of Bone

With both malignant and benign forms, this variety of bone cancer can be found in the arm and leg bones. Luckily, it tends to remain localized, and will not usually spread to other parts of the body. Though while the cancer can be removed through surgery, it can carry the risk of returning after time. It effects young and middle aged adults most commonly.


Focusing on bones in the spine and base of the skull, chordoma is often a slow growing tumor which does not pose a high risk of spreading to distant parts of the body. However it can spread to the lungs, lymph nodes, or liver, and even return to the original site over time. It occurs most frequently in adults over the age of 30.

Bone cancer symptoms

The symptoms of each type of bone cancer may differ slightly, but generally adhere to all the same similar effects. Bone pain, swelling, and fractures can lead to decreased mobility. If the cancer is spread to the lungs or other parts of the body, it can also result in difficulty breathing.

The most prominent symptom is bone pain, which can occur in different ways or at different times of the day, depending on the patient. It may crop up late at night, right before bed, or when the patient is at their most active. As the cancer develops over time, this pain will increase and grow in duration.

Treatment for bone cancer

As with many forms of cancer, treating bone cancer properly relies on diagnosing the specific variety correctly.

Luckily, hospitals today have a wider array of diagnostic tools and treatment options than ever before. These can help give you and your doctor a clearer picture of your type of bone cancer, exactly where it is located, and what the best course of action will be.

Last Reviewed:
July 11, 2017
Last Updated:
October 27, 2018