How Long Do You Live After Being Diagnosed With Bone Cancer?

Medically Reviewed on 6/14/2022
Cancer means an uncontrolled growth of cells in the body.
The earlier bone cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the surival rate.

When diagnosed and treated during the early stages, most people with bone cancer can have long and productive lives.

The survival rate for bone cancer depends on several factors such as:

  • The type of bone cancer
  • The cancer stage at the time of diagnosis
  • Person’s overall health and comorbidities
  • How early the treatment is initiated
  • Response to treatment

The duration one can expect to live after being diagnosed with bone cancer is generally expressed as the five-year survival rate. This means what percentage of people diagnosed with that particular cancer can expect to live for at least five years from the time of diagnosis. The overall five-year survival rate for bone cancer is 66.8 percent. This means that 66.8 percent of people diagnosed with bone cancer can expect to live for at least five years from the time of diagnosis.

Survival rates are mere estimates based on research studies. Your individual survival rate may differ from these estimates depending on your body’s response to medications. To know your survival rate more accurately, discuss it with your doctor.

Survival rates of bone cancer by stage

The stage at which the cancer is diagnosed largely depends on the stage; the earlier the diagnosis, the better the survival rates. 

  • Localized: It is the earliest stage and has an excellent prognosis. In the localized stage, there is no sign of cancer spreading outside of the bone where it started.
  • Regional: In this stage, cancer has grown outside the bone and into nearby bones or other structures, or it has reached nearby lymph nodes.
  • Distant: This is the most advanced stage. Here cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the lungs or bones in other parts of the body.

Survival rates for different stages of bone cancer are given in the tables below, which are based on the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database.

Table. The five-year survival rate for osteosarcoma
SEER stage Survival rate (in percent)
Localized 77
Regional 65
Distant 26
All SEER stages combined 60
Table. The five-year survival rate for Ewing’s sarcoma
SEER stage Survival rate (in percent)
Localized 82
Regional 70
Distant 39
All SEER stages combined 62
Table. The five-year survival rate for chondrosarcoma
SEER stage Survival rate (in percent)
Localized 91
Regional 75
Distant 23
All SEER stages combined 79
Table. Five-year survival rate for chordoma
SEER stage Survival rate (in percent)
Localized 86
Regional 85
Distant 61
All SEER stages combined 79
Table. The five-year survival rate for GCT of the bone
SEER stage Survival rate (in percent)
Localized 87
Regional 74
Distant 42
All SEER stages combined 76


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What are the types of bone cancer?

Bone cancer has various types. The main types of bone cancer are:

  1. Osteosarcoma: It is the commonest type of bone cancer. Around 3% of cancers seen in children are osteosarcomas. This cancer arises from the bone-forming cells called osteoblasts. Hence, it is seen more commonly in age groups where growth spurt occurs, such as teens.
  2. Chondrosarcoma: It is the second most common primary bone cancer. It arises from the cartilage-forming cells.
  3. Ewing sarcoma: This tumor may arise in immature nerve tissues in the bone marrow. Ewing sarcoma generally affects the long bones, such as the thighbone (femur), upper arm bone (humerus), and shinbone (tibia), although it may affect the bones of the pelvis as well. When this cancer starts in the muscles and soft tissues, it is called extraosseous Ewing sarcoma.
  4. Fibrosarcoma of the bone: It is a rare type of bone cancer that mainly affects middle-aged adults. Fibrosarcoma of the bone is typically seen in the legs, arms, and jaw.
  5. High-grade undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma of the bone: It is another rare type of bone cancer that primarily affects middle-aged and old people and is rare in children. This cancer is usually seen around the knees and in the arms.
  6. Giant cell tumor of the bone (GCT): It can be either malignant or benign although benign GCT is more common. GCT generally affects people in their 20s or 30s. It is typically seen in the arms and around the knee.
  7. Chordoma: This is a rare type of bone cancer. Chordoma usually affects adults in their 30s. It arises from the bones of the spine and is most commonly seen at the bottom of the spine (sacrum) and the skull base.

What are the warning signs of bone cancer?

The warning signs of bone cancer generally include:

  • Bone pains
  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Fractures that may occur with minor injury or in the absence of any injury
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fever
  • Pallor

These symptoms may not necessarily mean bone cancer. A physician’s consultation is recommended for a definitive diagnosis.

How do you detect bone cancer?

The most accurate way to diagnose bone cancer is through a biopsy. 

Cancer means an uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. The term bone cancer is used for any cancer that starts in the bones. This is also called primary cancer of the bones. Cancers that begin in one part of the body and spread to bones (metastasis) are not categorized as bone cancer. 

These cancers are called secondary or secondary cancer affecting the bones. Only around 0.2-0.5% of the cancers affecting the bones are primary bone cancers. In children, however, bone cancers account for around 5% of all cancers. 

According to the American Cancer Society, around 3,160 Americans will be diagnosed with bone cancer in 2021. The estimates also suggest that bone cancer may cause around 2060 deaths in the United States in 2021.

Doctors diagnose bone cancer by:

  • Medical history: This includes asking for the person’s symptoms, when and how the symptoms started to show, and the person’s history of any medications or underlying health conditions. The physician may also enquire about any history of cancer in the person or their relatives (parents, children, or siblings).
  • Physical examination: The physician conducts a detailed examination of the affected site and the rest of the body to identify any signs of cancer spreading (metastasis) or underlying health conditions.
  • Imaging studies: X-ray is generally done as an initial imaging study to look for any bone abnormality. Other imaging studies, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), radionuclide bone, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans, may be done. The results of imaging studies should indicate the site of the primary tumor, metastasis, and the type of tumor to the doctor.
  • Biopsy: This test involves taking a piece of tissue from the tumor and examining it in the laboratory under a microscope. Biopsy reveals whether the mass is because of cancer or other diseases. It also informs about the type of cancer.
  • Blood tests: The physician orders certain blood tests to check for various parameters, such as blood counts, blood sugar, biomarkers (certain substances whose blood levels may be raised in case of a tumor), and electrolytes (such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium).

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Medically Reviewed on 6/14/2022
American Cancer Society. Tests for Bone Cancer.,five%20years%20after%20their%20diagnosis.