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Bone Cancer: Signs and Symptoms

Pain in the bone is primary symptom for bone cancer

Symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can feel and know (for example, pain or tiredness). The symptoms of bone cancer are diverse in each individual's medical case. These indicators are different due to size, location, type and grade of the cancer in the body. Not everyone will get all of these symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms are not caused directly by the cancer in the bones or can have more than one cause. A Sign is something that can be observed and recognized by a doctor or healthcare professional (for example, a rash). Physical examination allows the doctor to look for any signs of bone cancer.

During a physical examination, the doctor may:

  • look at and feel the affected area to check for pain, tenderness, swelling or a lump
  • check for decreased movement, decreased range of motion in a joint or affected area
  • feel the lymph nodes around the affected area
  •  listen to the lungs


If a person experiences any of these symptoms, he/she must get a medical check-up done at the earliest. The symptoms of bone cancer can be caused by any other medical condition also but it is better to exclude any possibility of having bone cancer especially if there is no other reason identified, the problem lasts a long time or it gets worse over time.

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat and the more likely treatment is to be successful.

Here are some of the common problems caused by bone cancer.

1) Pain in a Bone or Joint

Pain in the bone is often the first symptom of cancer that has spread to the bone. Initially a person may experience pain sometimes but of late it is frequent and gets unbearable at night and during physical activity. Pain can also be experienced with swelling in or near a bone however it is essential to get proper clinical examination & test done to confirm the disease.

2) Swelling

Sometimes swelling in the cancer affected area is the symptom though pain in the bones and lump formation is not seen. In that case, one can't feel or see a lump but might have some swelling.

Whereas often swelling in the area of the pain may not occur until weeks later. It might be possible to feel a lump or mass depending on the location of the tumour. Cancers in the bones of the neck can cause a lump in the back of the throat that can lead to trouble swallowing or make it hard to breathe.

3) Fracture

Due to cancer, bone turns to be so weak that it may fracture due to fall / injury OR everyday activities. The most common fractures are in the long bones of the arms and legs and the bones of the spine. This can often be prevented if the bone metastasis is found at an early stage.

4) Spinal Cord Compression

Cancer growth in the bones of the spine can press on the spinal cord. This is called spinal cord compression and is very serious. One of the very earliest symptoms of spinal cord compression is pain in the back or neck and also trouble in urinating.

The spinal cord has nerves that allow a person to move and feel what happens to the body. When cancer threatens to paralyze, it's an emergency. Some of these nerves also control other functions such as bowel and bladder control.

5) High Blood Calcium Levels (Hypercalcemia)

As cancer cells damage the bones, calcium from the bones is released into the blood. The medical word for high calcium levels is hypercalcemia.

This can cause problems such as constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, Feeling sluggish or sleepy, extreme thirst and passing urine very often leading to dehydration. Patient may be sleepy or even confused. If hypercalcemia is not treated, a person can even go into a coma.

6) Other Symptoms

Along with the general symptoms, observing certain other common signs and symptoms is obligatory that could suggest cancer. At times one might experience unusual difficulty to move around and limp while walking.

Rare signs and symptoms of bone cancer are confusion, weight loss, fever, sweats, chills and fatigue.



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