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What are Benign Bone Tumors?

Benign bone tumors are a non-cancerous abnormal growth of cells in the bone. These tumors can develop in any part of your skeletal system; however, they commonly occur in the large bones such as the thighbone, shinbone, arm bone, pelvic bone, ribs, and spine.

What are Common Types of Benign Bone Tumors?

The most common types of benign bone tumors include:

  • Enchondroma: This is a cartilage cyst that develops within the bone marrow. It usually appears in the hands and feet as well as the long bones of the thigh and arm. 
  • Osteochondroma: This is the most common type of benign bone tumor and affects the growing ends of long bones, such as the leg or arm bones.
  • Non-ossifying fibroma unicameral: This tumor occurs as a single bone cyst commonly found in the legs of children and adolescents.
  • Osteoblastoma: This is a slow-growing tumor that most often occurs in the long bones and spine of young adults.
  • Osteoid Osteoma: This bone tumor usually occurs in the long bones of children and young adults. It is more common in males. 
  • Giant cell Tumor: These tumors affect the rounded end of the bone and grow aggressively, mostly occurring in adults.
  • Aneurysmal Bone Cyst (ABC): This is an irregularity of blood vessels that originates in the bone marrow. This bone lesion can grow swiftly and be very destructive, as it affects the growth plates.
  • Fibrous Dysplasia: This is a type of bone lesion that occurs due to a gene mutation which makes bone fibrous and susceptible to fracture.
  • Periosteal Chondroma: These tumors are cartilage tumors that grow on the surface of a bone. Surgery is usually the only option for treatment.
  • Chondromyxoid Fibroma: They are extremely rare tumors that start in the bone marrow. Almost always, surgery is the only option for treatment.

What are the causes of Benign Bone Tumors?

Although the exact cause is unclear, abnormal changes in the DNA or genetic code may contribute to the development of bone tumors.  

Some of the risk factors of benign bone tumors include:

  • Previous treatment with radiation therapy
  • Rapid bone growth
  • Bone infarction

What are the symptoms of Benign Bone Tumors?

Signs and symptoms of benign bone tumors include:

  • Swelling and tenderness in the bone
  • Pain in the bones or joints that gets worse even when you're relaxing
  • Increased susceptibility to breaks or fractures caused by a developing bone tumor which weakens the bones
  • Bone pain after exercise
  • Increased pain with lifting objects
  • Persistent fever

Diagnosis of Benign Bone Tumors

Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and conduct a physical examination. The following diagnostic tests may be ordered:

  • X-rays: This study uses electromagnetic beams to produce images of the bones and can detect fractures or bony abnormalities.
  • MRI Scan: This study uses a large magnetic field and radio waves to produce images that help in detecting damage to tissues such as bone, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. 
  • CT Scan: This scan uses multiple X-rays to produce detailed cross-sectional images of the body.
  • Ultrasound: This study uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of hard and soft tissue.
  • Bone Scan: This study uses a tiny amount of a radioactive substance and a special camera to visualize the damage to the bones.
  • Bone Biopsy: This is an image-guided procedure in which a small sample of bone tissue is taken and observed under a microscope.

What are the Treatments for Benign Bone Tumors?

Treatment for benign bone tumors depends on the type of tumor, its location and size, the age of the patient, and the effect the tumor has on bone strength.

Bone tumors that are benign and do not cause any symptoms may require only regular monitoring to see if they change over time. During this period, you may require regular follow-up x-rays or other tests to assess the status of the tumor.

Surgically treating benign bone tumors entails removing the tumor as well as promoting the formation of new healthy bone at the tumor location. The tumor is removed with as little harm to the surrounding normal bone structure as possible.

Bone stabilization using orthopedic devices and bone grafting may also be performed. People with benign bone tumors, particularly young people, can return to full and limitless activities following treatment.