Bone cancer

Primary bone cancer is a rare type of cancer that begins in the bones. Around 550 new cases are diagnosed each year in the UK.

This is a separate condition from secondary bone cancer, which is cancer that spreads to the bones after developing in another part of the body.

These pages only refer to primary bone cancer.

Find out more about secondary bone cancer on the Macmillan website

Signs and symptoms of bone cancer

Bone cancer can affect any bone, but most cases develop in the long bones of the legs or upper arms.

The main symptoms include:

If you or your child are experiencing persistent, severe or worsening bone pain, visit your GP.

While it's highly unlikely to be the result of bone cancer, it does require further investigation.

Read more about the symptoms of bone cancer.

Types of bone cancer

Some of the main types of bone cancer are:

Young people can be affected because the rapid growth spurts that occur during puberty may make bone tumours develop.

The above types of bone cancer affect different types of cell. The treatment and outlook will depend on the type of bone cancer you have.

What causes bone cancer

In most cases, it's not known why a person develops bone cancer.

You're more at risk of developing it if you:

Read more about the causes of bone cancer.

How bone cancer is treated

Treatment for bone cancer depends on the type of bone cancer you have and how far it has spread.

Most people have a combination of:

In some cases of osteosarcoma, a medicine called mifamurtide may also be recommended.

Read more about treating bone cancer.


The outlook for bone cancer depends on factors such as your age, the type of bone cancer you have, how far the cancer has spread (the stage), and how likely it is to spread further (the grade).

Generally, bone cancer is much easier to cure in otherwise healthy people whose cancer hasn't spread.

Overall, around 6 in every 10 people with bone cancer will live for at least 5 years from the time of their diagnosis, and many of these may be cured completely.

Cancer Research UK: statistics and outlook for bone cancer

Page last reviewed: 20 June 2021
Next review due: 20 June 2024