What Is Bone Cancer?

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Is the bone tumor a metastasis or a primary bone cancer?

Cancers can be discovered in bones in a number of different circumstances. When cancer is located in the bones, it is important to differentiate whether this cancer has spread from another site to the bones or whether the cancer originated in the bone tissue itself. This distinction is important not only for the sake of correct terminology, but also to accurately determine which treatment options are appropriate.

There are more than 100 types of cancer, and each cancer type is named for the organ or tissue in which it begins. When cancer cells spread elswhere in the body, or metastasize, they may travel via the lymphatic channels to lymph nodes, or they may enter the bloodstream and travel to other organs or locations in the body that are distant from the site of the original, or primary, tumor. It is not unusual for cancers that originate in other parts of the body to spread to the bones and begin growing there. Certain types of cancers are particularly likely to spread to the bones. Cancers that commonly metastasize, or spread, to the bones include:

It is important to note that when these other types of cancer spread to the bone, they are still named for the tissue or organ where they arose and are not termed "bone" cancer. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bones is referred to as metastatic breast cancer and not as bone cancer. A deposit of breast cancer in the bone is treated in a completely different manner than would be a deposit of prostate cancer, or an area of "bone cancer" which began in that same location.

In contrast to cancers which have spread to the bone, true bone cancers are tumors that arise from the tissues of the bones. These cancers, called primary bone cancers, are quite rare in comparison to cancers that have spread to the bones.

Finally, another type of cancer can arise from blood cells produced in the bone marrow. Leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma are cancers that arise from these cells. These are referred to as hematologic malignancies (cancers of blood cells) and are not types of bone cancer.

What Is Bone Cancer? Resources

Read patient comments on Bone Cancer - Types

Doctor written main article on Bone Cancer Overview

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/10/2017

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