Bone cancer is an uncommon type that can occur when cells in the bones begin to grow at an uncontrollable rate. It may happen in any bone, including those in the feet. However, it most commonly affects the long bones of the arms and legs.

Developing in the skeletal system, bone cancer can either be primary or secondary. In primary bone cancer, the cancer develops in the cells of the bone. In secondary bone cancer, the cancer develops elsewhere and then spreads, or metastasizes, to the bones.

The types of primary bone cancer include:

  • Osteosarcoma: This is the most common type and occurs most often in young people between the ages of 10 and 30.
  • Ewing sarcoma: This is the second most common type of primary bone cancer in children, teens, and young adults. It rarely occurs in people older than 30.
  • Chondrosarcoma: This type is overall the second most common primary bone cancer. It rarely occurs in people younger than 20, and the risk increases as people get older.

In this article, we will discuss bone cancer, including whether it can develop in the bones of the feet.

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Benign tumors and tumor-like lesions are not uncommon in the feet and ankles. However, malignant tumors in the foot are rare — particularly malignant bone tumors.

Cysts, lipomas (fat buildup), or reactions to a foreign body cause most lumps found in feet. Due to the rarity of malignant bone tumors in feet, it is difficult to estimate their prevalence. A 2017 review estimates that only about 6% of bone tumors occur in the foot; of those, only 25% are cancerous.

Learn more about bumps on the top or bottom of the foot.

Bone cancer can affect any bone in the body. However, the bones it most commonly affects are the long bones of the legs and the upper arms. This can also depend on the type of bone cancer.

For example, osteosarcoma typically arises from bone-forming cells — osteoblasts — in immature bone tissue. This usually occurs in children’s and adolescents’ arms near the shoulder and the leg near the knee.

The most common sites for Ewing sarcomas are typically the pelvic bones, the bones in the chest wall, such as ribs and shoulder blades, the bones of the spine, and the long bones of the legs.

Chondrosarcoma usually begins in early forms of cartilaginous tissue. As such, it typically develops where cartilage covers the ends of bones and the lining of joints. Most commonly, chondrosarcoma develops in pelvic, arm, and leg bones. However, it may also occur in the shoulder blades, ribs, or skull.

In most cases, it is not clear why a person develops bone cancer. However, research associates several risk factors with its development. These include:

  • previous treatment with radiation, chemotherapy, or stem cell transplantation
  • certain inherited conditions, such as retinoblastoma and Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • certain benign bone conditions, such as Paget’s disease
  • age

The symptoms of bone cancer include:

  • persistent bone pain that worsens over time
  • swelling and redness over a bone
  • difficulty with movement
  • a noticeable bump over a bone
  • a weak bone that fractures more easily than normal

The symptoms of bone cancer are quite general, so it is important to pay attention to them. If over-the-counter (OTC) medications and home remedies are not alleviating the pain or swelling, it is best to book an appointment and seek medical help.

A doctor will take a medical history and perform a physical exam to diagnose bone cancer. The doctor can order several laboratory and diagnostic tests to make an official diagnosis and rule out other conditions. These may include:

The treatment options for bone cancer depend on the type of bone cancer, how far it has spread, and the person’s general health. The main treatment options typically include:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation
  • cryosurgery
  • targeted therapy
  • medications such as dactinomycin, which a doctor can prescribe alongside other treatments

Bone cancer can occur in any bone, including those in the feet and ankles. However, it does not commonly occur in the feet and is more likely to develop in the long bones of the legs and upper arms.

The symptoms of bone cancer can be quite generalized and include pain, swelling, and visible lumps. It is best to seek medical help if these symptoms persist with little to no relief from OTC methods and home remedies.

There are several treatment options for bone cancer, including surgery to remove the tumor and affected tissue, chemotherapy, radiation, and more novel methods such as medications and targeted therapy.