Types of Bone Sarcoma in Adults

Bone sarcoma is a type of tumor that forms in bone tissue. Many of these tumors are benign, meaning they do not contain cancer and do not spread. The most common forms of malignant, or cancerous, bone sarcoma are osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma.

NYU Langone doctors are pioneers in diagnosing and treating people with osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. They also have extensive experience caring for people with all other types of bone tumors, whether these are benign or malignant.

Our physicians also treat people with very rare forms of cancerous bone sarcoma, including chordoma, as well as giant cell tumors, which are usually benign but grow quickly and sometimes become malignant.

Identifying the type of bone sarcoma you have helps our physicians to develop the most effective treatment plan for you.


Osteosarcoma, also called osteogenic sarcoma, begins in cells within the bone. This type of tumor often occurs in the ends of long bones, such as those in the arms or legs. On rare occasions, osteosarcoma occurs in the bones of the pelvis, head, or neck. Symptoms may include severe pain and swelling or a lump at the tumor site.

Osteosarcoma is most common in teenagers, but this type of cancer can also develop in people who are older. It also can occur in connection with certain rare inherited conditions that raise the risk of cancer. These include retinoblastoma—when a tumor develops in the eye—and Paget’s disease, a chronic condition that affects bone growth. A history of radiation therapy can also increase the chance of developing osteosarcoma.


Chondrosarcoma starts in the cartilage, which is the flexible connective tissue in the joints between bones. Chondrosarcoma is often found in the pelvis, upper leg, and shoulder bones. As with osteosarcoma, symptoms usually include pain with possible swelling or a lump at the tumor site.

Risk factors for chondrosarcoma include rare disorders of the bones, such as Ollier's disease and Maffucci syndrome.

Ewing Sarcoma

Ewing sarcoma can occur in any bone in the body; it can also occur in soft tissue, such as in muscles or connective tissue. Although Ewing sarcoma of the bone is most common in children and adolescents, it does occur in adults, who tend to have a more difficult treatment path than children with the condition. Our sarcoma experts at NYU Langone has extensive experience in treating adults with Ewing sarcoma and can work with you to choose the most effective treatment options.

The areas most commonly affected by Ewing sarcoma include the pelvis, thigh, lower leg, upper arm, and chest wall. Symptoms may include pain, redness, and swelling around the tumor. Signs of Ewing sarcoma can vary according to tumor location; for example, if the tumor is in the chest wall, you may have difficulty breathing.

The causes of Ewing sarcoma of the bone are not fully understood. It is not inherited, meaning it doesn’t run in families. Specific genetic changes that have been found in Ewing sarcoma tumor cells have also been found in other types of tumors, such as primitive neuroectodermal tumors and Ewing sarcoma of soft tissue. Together, these closely related conditions are sometimes referred to as the Ewing sarcoma family of tumors.

Rare Forms of Bone Sarcoma

Doctors at NYU Langone also have expertise in diagnosing and treating adults with rare forms of cancerous bone sarcoma, including the following.


Chordoma is a bone sarcoma that can occur in the skull or the spine, including in the lowest portion of the spine, called the sacrum. Symptoms can vary, depending on the location of the tumor. For example, a chordoma in the skull may cause headaches, whereas growths in the spine may cause numbness in the arms and legs.

Giant Cell Tumors

Giant cell tumors are usually benign, but they grow quickly and can sometimes become cancerous. They form near the ends of the long bones of the body, near the joints. Pain and swelling at the site of the tumor may be among the first symptoms.

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