Bone Tumors (Benign)

Most bone tumors are benign, and unlikely to spread. They can occur in any bone, but they usually are found in the biggest ones. These include the thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), upper arm bone (humerus) and pelvis. Some types are more common in specific places such as the spine or near the growth plates of the largest bones.

There are many specific types of tumors within the category of benign bone tumors. The most common ones are endochondromas, osteochondromas, nonossifying fibromas, chondroblastomas, osteoid osteomas, osteoblastomas, periosteal chondromas, giant cell tumors and chondromyxoid fibromas. Some conditions such as aneurysmal bone cyst, unicameral bone cyst and fibrous dysplasia are grouped with benign bone tumors. They often are treated in a similar way, although they aren't truly tumors.

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Symptoms

A lump or swelling can be the first sign of a benign tumor. Another is ongoing or increasing aching or pain in the region of the tumor. Sometimes tumors are found only after a fracture occurs where the bone has been weakened by the growing tumor.

Causes and Risk Factors

Benign bone tumors occur most often in children whose skeletons are still growing and people up to age 30. These tumors are often strongly affected by the hormones that cause growth. Many benign tumors stop growing once a child's bones do. This usually is between the ages 14 to 16 in girls and 16 to 19 in boys.

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Treatments

The type of tumor, its size, its location and how old the individual is all affect treatment decisions. Some tumors will heal after a fracture. Others may stop growing if the patient is near maturity when the tumor is discovered. Still other tumors are only discovered when an X-ray is taken for another reason. These may only need to be watched to make sure they aren't growing or becoming aggressive.

Usually, however, surgery is needed. Surgery removes the tumor and rebuilds new, healthy bone where the tumor was removed. At the Cedars-Sinai Orthopedic Center, specialized, minimally invasive techniques are used to protect the surrounding healthy tissue. This gives young patients the greatest chance of returning to full and unlimited activities.

Benign bone tumors include:

  • Osteoblastomas, which affect children and adolescents. These tumors can be large, aggressive and painful. They are best treated by a multidisciplinary team of oncologists, orthopedic surgeons and pain management specialists. They sometimes cause spinal deformity and paralysis. Treatment of depends on the tumor's size and location.
  • Osteoid osteoma, which is a small bone tumor (smaller than two centimeters). It usually affects adolescents, causing pain at night. It may also result in spinal deformity. Treatment depends the tumor's size and location. Surgery may be necessary if spine stability is compromised.