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Noncancerous Bone Tumors


Michael J. Joyce

, MD, Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University;

David M. Joyce

, MD, Moffitt Cancer Center

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2022 | Modified Sep 2022
Topic Resources

Noncancerous bone tumors are benign, which means they are not cancer and in general never or rarely spread to other areas of the body. However, they can cause problems because they may weaken bones, interfere with joint movement, or destroy nearby healthy tissue.

Benign tumors may be painless, but often they cause bone pain. The pain can be severe. Pain may occur when at rest or at night and tends to progressively worsen.


Chondroblastomas are rare tumors that grow in the ends of bones. They usually occur in people aged 10 to 20 years. These tumors may cause pain.

If untreated, these tumors may continue to grow and destroy bone and the joint. Therefore, treatment consists of surgical removal and use of a bone graft (transplantation of bone tissue from one bone to another) to fill in the defect. Graft material can be bone removed from the person’s own pelvis (autograft), processed bone tissue from another person (allograft), or a synthetic bone substitute. Occasionally, these tumors return after surgery.


Chondromyxofibromas are very rare tumors that usually occur in people younger than 30. They are usually located off to one side near the ends of the bones in the extremities (the limbs). Pain is the usual symptom.

Treatment of chondromyxofibromas consists of surgical removal, which usually provides a cure. However, these tumors sometimes return.


Enchondromas may occur at any age but tend to develop in people aged 10 to 40 years. These tumors develop in the central part of a bone (the marrow cavity) in long bones.

These tumors usually do not cause symptoms, but some may grow larger and cause pain.

The tumors often are discovered when x-rays are taken for other reasons, and doctors often can diagnose them by their appearance on the x-ray.

If the tumor cannot be identified with certainty on x-rays or if it causes pain, removal of a tissue sample for examination under a microscope (biopsy Diagnosis ) may be needed to confirm the diagnosis of enchondroma and rule out the possibility of a cancerous tumor.

If an enchondroma does not cause pain and if repeated x-rays show no enlargement, it does not have to be removed or treated.

Enchondromas may change into a cancerous (malignant) bone tumor called a chondrosarcoma Chondrosarcomas Tumors that originally start in the bone are called primary bone tumors. Primary bone tumors may be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). After cancer is diagnosed, it is staged. Staging... read more Chondrosarcomas . This change is rare in people who have only a single enchondroma, but in people who have multiple enchondromas (called enchondromatosis), the change to a cancerous tumor is more common.

Follow-up x-rays may be taken to monitor any changes in size and make sure the tumor has not become a chondrosarcoma.

Fibrous dysplasia

Fibrous dysplasia is abnormal bone development that occurs during childhood. It may affect one bone or several bones. The bones of the pelvis or hip are most frequently affected.

Children may have birth marks and signs of early puberty Early Puberty Early (precocious) puberty is sexual maturation that begins before the average age. The cause of early puberty is often unknown, but it may be caused by structural abnormalities or tumors in... read more , which indicate a disorder called Albright syndrome (or McCune-Albright syndrome). The abnormal bone growths commonly stop developing at puberty. This condition rarely becomes cancerous (malignant).

Bisphosphonates given by vein or the injectable monoclonal antibody denosumab may help relieve the pain. A surgical procedure may correct deformities, fractures that do not heal when placed in a cast, or pain that cannot be relieved any other way.

Benign giant cell tumors

Benign (noncancerous) giant cell tumors (GCT) usually occur in people in their 20s and 30s. These tumors most commonly start in the ends of bones and may extend into nearby tissue. They may cause pain.

Treatment of benign giant cell tumors depends on the tumor’s size. A tumor can be surgically removed, and the hole can be filled with bone graft, synthetic bone graft, or bone cement (methyl methacrylate) to preserve the bone’s structure. Occasionally, very extensive tumors may require removal of the affected segment of bone and reconstruction of the joint. The most common treatment is a surgical procedure called radical curettage, in which the tumor is aggressively scraped out with a scoop-shaped instrument and the cavity is further emptied using a high-speed burr. Then, doctors may treat the cavity with the chemical phenol or freeze it with liquid nitrogen and fill it with synthetic bone cement. These treatments help reduce the risk of the tumor returning. After this treatment, about 10% of tumors return. Giant cell tumors rarely become cancerous. If the tumor is not accessible to be completely removed by an operation, the monoclonal antibody denosumab can be used for treatment. Denosumab is often used before surgery to harden the outer shell around the giant cell tumor to allow a more aggressive curettage.

Nonossifying fibroma (fibrous cortical defect, fibroxanthoma)

A nonossifying fibroma is an abnormality that results when part of a bone does not harden normally and instead is filled with fibrous tissue rather than bone tissue. A very small nonossifying fibroma is called a fibrous cortical defect. Nonossifying fibromas are common among children. They commonly occur close to the ends of the bones of the legs.

Most nonossifying fibromas eventually harden, sometimes more than normal bone. Small nonossifying fibromas do not cause symptoms. However, some small fibromas grow larger and may cause pain and increase the risk of a break (fracture).

Nonossifying fibromas are most often found when an x-ray is taken for another reason.

Small nonossifying fibromas require no treatment. However, fibromas that cause pain or have grown large are removed and a bone graft is done to fill in the defect.


Osteoblastomas are rare noncancerous tumors. Some doctors simply consider them to be large osteoid osteomas Osteoid osteomas Noncancerous bone tumors are benign, which means they are not cancer and in general never or rarely spread to other areas of the body. However, they can cause problems because they may weaken... read more Osteoid osteomas . Osteoblastomas are much more common among males and typically develop between ages 10 and 35. These tumors develop in the bones of the spine, legs, hands, and feet. They grow slowly and destroy normal bone and are painful.

Treatment of osteoblastomas requires surgery. Often the tumors are removed and then bone grafting (transplantation of bone tissue from one bone to another) is done to fill in the defect. Sometimes the tumors return after surgery but do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.


Osteochondromas (osteocartilaginous exostoses), the most common type of noncancerous bone tumors, usually develop in people aged 10 to 20 years. These tumors are growths on the surface of a bone, which stick out as hard lumps. A person may have one or several tumors. The tendency to develop several tumors can run in families.

At some point in their lives, about 10% of people who have more than one osteochondroma (called multiple osteochondromatosis) may develop a cancerous (malignant) bone tumor called a chondrosarcoma Chondrosarcomas Tumors that originally start in the bone are called primary bone tumors. Primary bone tumors may be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). After cancer is diagnosed, it is staged. Staging... read more Chondrosarcomas (presumably formed from an existing osteochondroma). People with multiple osteochondromatosis should visit their doctor for regular examinations. However, people who have only one osteochondroma are unlikely to develop a chondrosarcoma. Therefore, a single osteochondroma usually does not need to be removed unless it causes symptoms.

Surgical removal of an osteochondroma is typically done if it grows larger or causes new symptoms. For example, if the tumor disturbs growth of the bone, causes pain, or presses on nearby nerves, muscles, blood vessels, or surrounding structures, it should be removed.

Osteoid osteomas

Osteoid osteomas are very small tumors that commonly develop in people aged 10 to 35. They are most common in the long bones of the legs (the thighbones and shinbones) but can occur in any bone.

These tumors usually cause pain that worsens at night and is relieved by low doses of aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Sometimes the muscles surrounding the tumor waste away (atrophy) because the pain causes people to remain inactive. This condition may improve after the tumor is removed. If the tumor develops near the growth plate (the part of the bone from which growth occurs in children), bone growth can be overstimulated. This overstimulation can cause the limbs to grow to unequal sizes.

To treat the tumor permanently, usually a doctor punctures the skin and inserts a needle-like probe into the tumor, using computed tomography as guidance for placement. A radiofrequency pulse, which heats the needle-like probe, is then applied to destroy the tumor. While this is done, the person is under general, spinal, or nerve block anesthesia Anesthesia Surgery is the term traditionally used to describe procedures (called surgical procedures) that involve manually cutting or stitching tissue to treat diseases, injuries, or deformities. However... read more . The prognosis is good, and pain should go away. Surgically removing the tumor is another way to eliminate the pain permanently. Alternatively, some people prefer to take pain relievers (analgesics) indefinitely rather than undergo a procedure. The pain may eventually go away without treatment.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
Prolia, XGEVA
Castellani Paint, Chloraseptic, Chloraseptic Kids, Phenaseptic, Sore Throat
Anacin Adult Low Strength, Aspergum, Aspir-Low, Aspirtab , Aspir-Trin , Bayer Advanced Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin Extra Strength, Bayer Aspirin Plus, Bayer Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Children's Aspirin, Bayer Extra Strength, Bayer Extra Strength Plus, Bayer Genuine Aspirin, Bayer Low Dose Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Womens Aspirin , BeneHealth Aspirin, Bufferin, Bufferin Extra Strength, Bufferin Low Dose, DURLAZA, Easprin , Ecotrin, Ecotrin Low Strength, Genacote, Halfprin, MiniPrin, St. Joseph Adult Low Strength, St. Joseph Aspirin, VAZALORE, Zero Order Release Aspirin, ZORprin
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