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Types of Bone Cancer

Our Approach

MD Anderson's Sarcoma Center treats more osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, patients than any other cancer center in the nation. In fact, we are one of the few teams in the world devoted to bone cancer. Our experience and expertise help us produce outstanding outcomes, and our patients have an 80% five-year event-free survival rate.

We bring together a team of experts that includes specialists from many areas to give you personal, customized care. They focus their full attention on you, communicating and collaborating with each other and you to ensure carefully coordinated care. We use specialized therapies and technologies to be sure you receive the most advanced treatment with the least impact on your body.

If possible, it is best to have a biopsy to diagnose bone cancer at the same place you expect to receive treatment. It is essential to go to a specialized cancer center that has experience in osteosarcoma biopsy. If the biopsy is done incorrectly, it may make it more difficult later for the surgeon to remove all of the cancer without having to also remove all or part of the arm or leg with the tumor. A biopsy that is not done correctly may cause the cancer to spread.

As one of the world's leading cancer centers, we constantly work to discover new treatments and innovations. We helped pioneer:

  • Embolization for localized unresectable giant cell tumor of bone
  • Activity of interferon in metastatic giant cell tumor of bone
  • Limb-sparing surgery to help save arms and legs
  • Targeting a cell receptor known to play a part in the spread of cancer to the bones may enable chemotherapy drugs to be delivered directly to the cells

If you have been diagnosed with bone cancer, we're here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Most-active bone cancer program in the nation
  • Outstanding outcomes for bone cancer treatment
  • Innovative bone cancer therapies, including specialized surgical techniques
  • Accurate diagnosis, advanced technology and expertise
  • Clinical trials of new treatments for bone cancer

Bone Cancer Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) is treated in our:

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Tracey Ferrin

"I had the most wonderful team. It's because of them and many other MD Anderson employees that today I'm a wife to the most amazing husband ever and a mother to four beautiful children."

Osteosarcoma Survivor Tracey Ferrin

Bone Cancer Facts

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 2,600 people each year in this country are diagnosed with primary cancer of the bones and joints. These cases make up .2% of all cancers in the United States.

Bone cancer is a sarcoma (type of cancerous tumor) that starts in the bone. Other cancers may affect the bones, including:

  • Secondary cancers that metastasize, or spread, from other parts of the body
  • Other types of cancer including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma

This information is about primary bone cancers.

Bones support and give structure to the body. They usually are hollow. The main parts of the bones are:

  • Matrix is the outer part of bones. It is made of fiber-like tissue and is covered with a layer of tissue called the periosteaum.
  • Bone marrow is the soft tissue in the space in hollow bones called the medullary cavity. Cells inside bone marrow include:
    • Fat cells
    • Red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets
    • Fibroblasts, a type of cell that helps build connective tissue
    • Plasma, in which blood cells are suspended
  • Cartilage is at the end of most bones. It is softer than bone, but it is firmer than soft tissue. Cartilage and other tissues, including ligaments, make up joints, which connect some bones.

Bone constantly changes as new bone forms and old bone dissolves. To make new bone, the body deposits calcium into the cartilage. Some of the cartilage stays at the ends of bones to make joints.

Bone Cancer Types

There are several types of bone tumors. They are named according to the area of bone or tissue where they start and the type of cells they contain. Some bone tumors are benign (not cancer), and some are malignant (cancer). Bone cancer also is called sarcoma.

The most commonly found types of primary bone cancer are:

Osteosarcoma or osteogenic sarcoma is the main type of bone cancer. It occurs most often in children and adolescents, and it accounts for about one-fourth of bone cancer in adults. More males than females get this cancer. About 1,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with osteosarcoma each year. It begins in bone cells, usually in the pelvis, arms or legs, especially the area around the knee.

Chondrosarcoma is cancer of cartilage cells. More than 40% of adult bone cancer is chondrosarcoma, making it the most prevalent bone cancer in adults. The average age of diagnosis is 51, and 70% of cases are in patients over 40. Chondrosarcoma tends to be diagnosed at an early stage and often is low grade. Many chondrosarcoma tumors are benign (not cancer). Tumors can develop anywhere in the body where there is cartilage, especially the pelvis, leg or arm.

Ewing's sarcoma is the second most prevalent type of bone cancer in children and adolescents, and the third most often found in adults. It accounts for about 8% of bone cancers in adults. Ewing's sarcoma can start in bones, tissues or organs, especially the pelvis, chest wall, legs or arms.

Less-commonly found types of bone cancer include:

  • Chordoma, which is found in 10% of adult bone cancer cases, usually in the spine and base of the skull
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma/fibrosarcoma, which usually starts in connective tissue
  • Fibrosarcoma, which often is benign and found in soft tissue in the leg, arm or jaw

Secondary (or metastatic) bone cancer is cancer that spreads to the bone from another part of the body. This type of bone cancer is more prevalent than primary bone cancer. For more information about this type of cancer, see the type of primary cancer (where the cancer started).

If you have been diagnosed with bone cancer, we're here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center