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Is an Osteochondroma a kind of Bone Cancer?

It’s an osteochondroma says the doctor. Your doctor says that the hard lump may be an osteochondroma. Your child has a hard lump on his or her leg or arm, and you are very worried about cancer. What is an osteochondroma and does having one mean your child has bone cancer? What treatment should the osteochondroma receive? Is it possible your child may die?

The concerns above are what many parents feel when their child is diagnosed with having an osteochondroma. Concerned parents want to know more, so that they can make the best choices regards their child.

An osteochondroma, or exostosis, is a hard bony lump, or bone spur, or bone tumor, pushing up against the skin above it. It consists of cartilage and bone, and is a benign tumor. Benign means the tumor is not cancerous, or malignant. An osteochondroma is usually found near the end of long bones.

Solitary osteochondromas are one of the most common types of benign bone tumors. There are usually two main types of osteochondromas: solitary osteochondromas, and multiple osteochondromas. Multiple osteochondromas are more often than not heriditary.

Symptoms indicating that it may be malignant (cancerous.):

more growth of it after a child is fully grown;
pain in the area;
a large osteochondroma, that has a cartilage cap that is wider than 2cm


Osteochondromas that show no signs of cancer are usually just left alone and are “watched” for any changes.

Osteochondromas are surgically removed if there is:
indication that it may be cancerous,
indication that the osteochondroma may be affecting or harming other bones, nerves or organs around it,
or for cosmetic purposes (people may have it removed simply because they don’t like the look of it, or it causes discomfort or embarrassment.)

A bone biopsy may be done to determine if the bone tumor is benign or malignant. A needle biopsy may be performed using local anaesthetic, or a larger amount of bone may be removed for cancer testing, under general anaesthetic (an open biopsy.) If it has already been decided that the osteochondroma be removed anyway regardless of whether or not it is benign or malignant. (due to pain, or due to health risk or injury risk to other parts of the body in the vicinity of the osteochondroma,) the bony mass can still be sent for cancer testing after the surgery.

Studies show that only 1 to 5% of solitary osteochondromas (single osteochondromas that are usually not heriditary like multiple osteochondromas usually are heriditary) become malignant.

But concerns are concerns, and parents should take their child to a doctor to have any lumps and bumps checked out, especially if these lumps are causing pain, not going away, or appear to be growing. A doctor may have you take your child for xrays, before referring you to an orthopaedic surgeon, or may immediately refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon, or may simply ask you to keep an eye on the lump, to watch for any changes.

© copyright Teresa Schultz 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Disclaimer: The information on this site should not be relied upon. The information is general and informative only. Do not let any health concerns or legal concerns wait because of anything you have read on this site. Consult with a medical professional or legal professional about your health concerns or legal concerns.

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