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Benign Bone Tumors

What is a benign bone tumor?


Bone tumors develop when cells within a bone divide uncontrollably, forming a lump or mass of abnormal tissue. They can consist of any component of bone or the surrounding tissues, including: bone itself, cartilage, connective tissue, muscle, or fat.

Most bone tumors are benign (not cancerous) and not life-threatening. Malignant bone tumors (cancerous) - also known as sarcomas - can be life-threatening and metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body.

Some common types of benign bone tumors - and related conditions - include:

  • Non-ossifying fibroma

  • Osteochondroma

  • Enostosis (bone island)

  • Enchondroma

  • Unicameral (simple) bone cyst

  • Aneurysmal bone cyst

  • Giant cell tumor of bone

  • Fibrous dysplasia

  • Chondroblastoma

  • Osteoid osteoma

How common are benign bone tumors?

Benign bone tumors are common. Approximately 20% of children have a benign bone tumor without associated symptoms.

What causes a benign bone tumor?

For most benign bone tumors, the cause is unknown.

What are symptoms of a benign bone tumor?


​Most benign bone tumors are not symptomatic and are discovered incidentally when an x-ray is taken for another reason, such as a knee injury or fracture.

Occasionally, patients with a benign bone tumor will experience pain in the area of the tumor. This pain generally increases with activity.

Although bone tumors are not caused by trauma, an injury can sometimes cause a bone that is weakened by a tumor to fracture, or break.

How do you diagnose a benign bone tumor?


​Infections, stress fractures, metabolic abnormalities, and other non-tumor conditions can all closely resemble benign bone tumors. To be sure you have a bone tumor and to determine which type, Dr. Collier will conduct a thorough evaluation and may order a number of tests, including:

  • Medical history and physical exam

  • X-rays

  • Other imaging studies (CT, MRI, Bone scan)

  • Biopsy

    • A biopsy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis of a benign bone tumor and guide treatment. There are two basic methods of performing a biopsy:

      • Needle biopsy - After given local anest​hetic or sedation, a needle is inserted into the tumor to remove some tissue. The tissue is then evaluated under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis. A needle biopsy is most often done by a radiologist.

      • Open biopsy - An open biopsy is performed in an operating room by a surgeon.

  • Blood and/or urine tests

How do you treat a benign bone tumor?

Most benign bone tumors do not require treatment and can be observed over time with repeat imaging. In some cases, treatment may be recommended if the tumor is growing or if it is causing pain. Dr. Collier will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan for your specific tumor and location. 

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