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Learning About Benign Bone Tumours in Children

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 your child's 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. Most are discovered in children while their bones are still growing. The tumour may stop growing when the bone stops growing.

Many benign bone tumours may not need to be treated. But if the tumour causes pain, weakens the bone, or keeps your child from moving a part of his or her 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.

Osteoblastoma.

These are often found in the spine or pelvis.

Osteoid osteoma.

These tumours are often in the legs or spine. They can be painful.

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.

Other bone tumours common in children are unicameral bone cysts, non-ossifying fibroma, and chondroblastomas.

What are the symptoms?

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

Your child 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 the shoulder or knee, may keep your child from being able to move an arm or leg freely.

How are they diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and past health and do an examination. If the doctor can feel a bone tumour, or if your child has other symptoms, your child will get some tests. They can help make sure that the tumour isn't cancer. They can also help the doctor find the best treatment for the tumour.

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

  • Your child 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.
  • Your child may need a blood test and other lab tests.
  • Your child 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 child's 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 child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

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

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