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Types of Cancer We Treat

Musculoskeletal Cancer

Home to one of the few fellowship-trained orthopedic oncologists in the United States, Geisinger's Musculoskeletal Tumor program treats patients whose lung, prostate, breast, or kidney cancer has metastasized to the bone, as well as those who have rare cancers that occur first in the bone. More about orthopaedic surgery at Geisinger.


Bone cancer is a cancerous tumor of the bone that destroys normal bone tissue. Not all bone tumors are malignant. In fact, benign (noncancerous) bone tumors are more common than malignant ones. Both malignant and benign bone tumors may grow and compress healthy bone tissue, but benign tumors do not spread, do not destroy bone tissue, and are rarely life-threatening.

Common types of primary bone cancer include:

  • Osteosarcoma, which arises from osteoid tissue in the bone. This tumor occurs most often in the knee and upper arm.
  • Chondrosarcoma, which begins in cartilaginous tissue. Cartilage pads the ends of bones and lines the joints. Chondrosarcoma occurs most often in the pelvis, upper leg, and shoulder. If a chondrosarcoma contains cancerous bone cells, the tumor is classified as an osteosarcoma.
  • Ewing sarcoma family tumors (ESFTs) usually occur in bone but may also arise in soft tissue (muscle, fat, fibrous tissue, blood vessels, or other supporting tissue). ESFTs occur most commonly along the backbone and pelvis and in the legs and arms.

Other types of cancer that arise in soft tissue are called soft tissue sarcomas.

How Is Bone Cancer Diagnosed?

To help diagnose bone cancer, the patient will be asked about his or her personal and family medical history. The doctor will perform a physical examination and may order laboratory and other diagnostic tests. These tests may include:

  • X-rays that can show the location, size, and shape of a bone tumor
  • A bone scan, which is a test in which a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream; it then collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.
  • A computed tomography (CT) scan, which is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles, that are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine.
  • An MRI, which uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body without using X-rays.
  • A positron emission tomography (PET) scan, in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is used. Because cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body.
  • An angiogram, which is an X-ray of blood vessels.
  • Biopsy (removal of a tissue sample from the bone tumor) to determine whether cancer is present.
  • Blood tests


Geisinger's Sarcoma and Bone Cancer Clinic offers the latest and most trusted surgical and nonsurgical treatments. With access to more than 100 clinical trials, Geisinger is a leading resource in the region for cancer patients seeking innovative care. See also Geisinger's Orthopaedic Surgery website.

Bone Cancer Treatment at Geisinger

Orthopaedic oncology specialist Thomas Bowen, MD, describes the unique bone cancer clinic at Geisinger.