Learning About Benign Bone Tumors

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The skeletal system, with close-ups of a long bone head and shaft and a knee joint

What is a benign bone tumor?

A bone tumor is a growth of abnormal cells in the bones. When a tumor is benign (say "bih-NYN"), that means it's not cancer.

Benign bone tumors 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 tumors are benign. Many benign bone tumors may not need to be treated. But if the tumor causes pain, weakens the bone, or keeps you from moving a part of your body, it may need to be removed.

What are some common types of benign bone tumors?

Benign bone tumors grow inside the bones. As they grow, these tumors may involve tissues near the bones, such as tendons and ligaments that attach to the bone.

Osteochondroma.

These tumors appear most often in the bones of the legs. They may feel like a bony spur on the knee or upper shoulder.

Giant cell tumor of bone.

These are fast-growing tumors that need to be treated as soon as possible. They are more common in young adults. They often appear near the knee.

Osteoblastoma.

These are often found in the spine or pelvis.

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.

Enchondroma.

This is another type of bone tumor that can start in the cartilage. It often appears on the hands and feet. It can also appear on the long bones of the arms and legs.

What are the symptoms?

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

You may also feel pain near the tumor.

Tumors can weaken bone, which can then break, or fracture. A tumor that grows near a joint, like your shoulder or knee, may keep you from being able to move your arm or leg freely.

How are they diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and past health and will examine you. If your doctor can feel a bone tumor, or if you have other symptoms, you will get some tests. The tests can help make sure the tumor isn't cancer. They can also help the doctor find the best treatment for the tumor.

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

  • You may have one or more imaging tests to get a better look at the tumor. These may include:
    • X-rays.
    • A CT scan.
    • An MRI scan.
    • A bone scan.
  • You may need a blood test and other lab tests.
  • You may need a biopsy so a sample of the tumor can be looked at under a microscope.
  • Doctors may also look at other parts of your body for other tumors.

How are they treated?

Some benign bone tumors that aren't causing problems can be managed with regular checkups and imaging tests. But if the tumor is causing problems, then treatment will likely be needed.

A doctor may remove a tumor 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 tumor.

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 treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.




The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.