Bone Cancer

What is sarcoma?

A sarcoma is a rare and complex cancer that begins in the bone, cartilage or connective tissue such as muscle, fat, nerves, tendons, lining of joints, lymph vessels or blood vessels.

Sarcoma occurs when abnormal cells in these types of tissue grow in an uncontrolled way. It can develop in any part of the body.

There are two main types of sarcomas, depending on which type of tissue the sarcoma starts in:

  1. Soft Tissue Sarcoma
  2. Bone Sarcoma

What is bone sarcoma?

Bone cancer (also known as bone sarcoma) develops when the cells of the bone and cartilage grow in an uncontrolled or abnormal way. It can begin in any bone in the body.

It is different from secondary (or metastatic) bone cancer which refers to a cancer that has started somewhere else in the body and has spread to the bones.

Bone cancer is rare in adults and is more commonly seen in children, adolescents and young adults.

The most common types of bone sarcoma are:

  • Osteosarcoma – which affect cells that grow bone tissue
  • Chondrosarcoma – which grows in the cartilage. This type of bone sarcoma is more common in adults.
  • Ewing’s Sarcoma – which grows in the bones or in the soft tissue around the bones

Signs and symptoms of bone cancer

The most common symptom of bone sarcoma is a pain in the bones and joints. It may be worse at night or during activity.

Other symptoms can include:


over the affected part of the bone

Stiffness or tenderness

in the bone

Problems with movement

such as an unexplained limp

A fractured bone

Unexplained weight loss



in bones and joints

Whilst these symptoms may be due to other causes besides bone cancer, it is always important to see your doctor.

Treatment for bone cancer

Frequently asked questions

What causes bone cancer?

It is not known what causes bone sarcoma, however there are some factors which are thought to increase the risk for developing bone sarcoma:

  • Genetics – people with a history of sarcomas in their family have a higher risk of developing bone sarcoma
  • Radiation therapy – people who have had radiation treatment for other conditions have a higher risk of developing bone cancer in the part of the body that was treated with radiation therapy. The risk is higher for people who have had high doses of radiation therapy at a young age.
  • Bone conditions – some people who have had Paget’s disease and other conditions of the bone are at higher risk of developing bone sarcoma.


For a full list of references, click here.
  1. Cancer Australia. (2018). Sarcoma fact sheet. Retrieved on 20 July 2020 from
  2. Australia and New Zealand Sarcoma Association. (2020). What is Sarcoma? Retrieved on 20 July 2020 from
  3. American Cancer Society. (2018). Bone Cancer. Retrieved on 20 July 2020 from
  4. Cancer.Net. (2018). Bone Cancer: Symptoms and Signs. Retrieved on 20 July 2020 from
  5. National Cancer Institute. (2020). Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. Retrieved on 20 July 2020 from

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