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Learning About Benign Bone Tumours

The skeletal system, with close-ups of a long bone head and shaft and a knee joint

What is a benign bone tumour?

A bone tumour is a growth of abnormal cells in the bones. When a tumour is benign (say "bih-NYN"), that means it's not cancer.

Benign bone tumours don't usually spread to other tissues and organs. They usually aren't life-threatening. But they can cause problems if they grow too much or damage healthy bone.

Most bone tumours are benign. Many benign bone tumours may not need to be treated. But if the tumour causes pain, weakens the bone, or keeps you from moving a part of your body, it may need to be removed.

What are some common types of benign bone tumours?

Benign bone tumours grow inside the bones. As they grow, these tumours may involve tissues near the bones, such as tendons and ligaments that attach to the bone.

Osteochondroma.

These tumours appear most often in the bones of the legs. They may feel like a bony spur on the knee or upper shoulder.

Giant cell tumour of bone.

These are fast-growing tumours that need to be treated as soon as possible. They are more common in young adults. They often appear near the knee.

Osteoblastoma.

These are often found in the spine or pelvis.

Aneurysmal bone cyst.

These may be found in the arms, legs, or spine. They are blood-filled growths that can swell inside the bone.

Fibrous dysplasia.

This can affect one or more bones. It may be found in the long bones of the arms and legs.

Enchondroma.

This is another type of bone tumour that can start in the cartilage. It often appears on the hands and feet. It can also appear on the long bones of the arms and legs.

What are the symptoms?

Sometimes the bone tumour can be felt as a bump on one of the bones. Or it might be inside the bone, and you won't feel it.

You may also feel pain near the tumour.

Tumours can weaken bone, which can then break, or fracture. A tumour that grows near a joint, like your shoulder or knee, may keep you from being able to move your arm or leg freely.

How are they diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and past health and will examine you. If your doctor can feel a bone tumour, or if you have other symptoms, you will get some tests. The tests can help make sure the tumour isn't cancer. They can also help the doctor find the best treatment for the tumour.

Your doctor may also find a tumour when taking X-rays or images for another problem.

  • You may have one or more imaging tests to get a better look at the tumour. These may include:
    • X-rays.
    • A CT scan.
    • An MRI scan.
    • A bone scan.
  • You may need a blood test and other lab tests.
  • You may need a biopsy so a sample of the tumour can be looked at under a microscope.
  • Doctors may also look at other parts of your body for other tumours.

How are they treated?

Some benign bone tumours that aren't causing problems can be managed with regular checkups and imaging tests. But if the tumour is causing problems, then treatment will likely be needed.

A doctor may remove a tumour with surgery. If part of the bone is removed, it may be replaced with new bone or artificial bone.

Ask the doctor or specialist about other types of treatments available for the tumour.

After treatment, the doctor may want to check the area again to make sure the growth doesn't come back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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