Symptoms of childhood bone cancer

Last medical review:

The symptoms of childhood bone cancer may vary depending on which bone it starts in. Childhood bone cancer can develop in any bone in the body.

Other health conditions can also cause the same symptoms as childhood bone cancer. Symptoms can be present for several months before a diagnosis is made. Sometimes the cancer is diagnosed after an injury does not heal properly. The injury is not the cause of the bone cancer, but it draws attention to a problem with that bone.

Symptoms of childhood bone cancer include:

Pain is the most common symptom of childhood bone cancer. It is often felt in the bone or joint close to where the tumour develops. The pain can be sharp or dull. It might be worse at night. It may also get worse with activity or lifting, depending on the location of the tumour.

Swelling or a lump is another common sign of childhood bone cancer. The lump or swelling is often soft and can feel warm. These signs are often easier to see if the tumour is in a leg or arm. A tumour in the chest or pelvis may not be noticed until it grows larger.

Other symptoms of bone cancer include:

  • stiffness
  • limping if cancer is in a leg
  • difficulty moving the arm or the leg with cancer
  • a bone that breaks for no reason

Expert review and references

  • Abha Gupta, MD, MSc, FRCPC
  • Raveena Ramphal, MBChB, FRACP