What is the Difference Between Primary & Metastatic Bone Cancer?

While we most often discuss bone tumors in terms of whether they're malignant or benign, there is another important system of classification worth discussing that you've likely already encountered.

Just like being malignant or benign, a bone tumor (or any other tumor for that matter) is either primary or metastatic and cannot be both. In this blog, we'll be providing a high-level overview defining this terminology, discussing the similarities & differences, and listing some of the most common bone cancers that fall within each category.

Primary Bone Cancer

Primary bone cancers are defined as cancers that originate in the bone itself rather than spreading to the bone from another part of the body. These cancers are much more rare than cancers that spread to the bone from elsewhere. Certain primary bone cancers affect older adults more than children or affect men more than women, but one of the most common primary bone cancers, Osteosarcoma, is most often found in young adults.

Common Primary Bone Cancers:


Metastatic Bone Cancer

Metastatic bone cancer is a cancer of the bone that spread from somewhere else within the body. Metastatic bone cancer is far more common than primary bone cancer, especially among adults. Metastatic cancer is often caught at a later stage than primary cancer and is typically classified as stage IV.

A unique note of clarification is that a tumor that spreads from one bone to another is still viewed as metastatic because it spread to a bone that it did not originate in. It’s also worth noting that some cancers metastasize in bone more often than others. For example, among lung cancer patients, between 30-40% will suffer from bone metastasis during the course of their treatment. Comparatively, over 60% of men suffering from advanced prostate cancer will eventually develop bone metastasis.

Common Metastatic Bone Cancers:


Symptoms Shared by Primary & Metastatic Bone Cancer

As always, the presence of symptoms does not indicate a tumor by default. Many of the bone cancer symptoms listed below are not particularly serious on their own, and only an orthopedic oncologist, like the experts at Baylor Scott & White Greater Dallas Orthopaedics, can diagnose you. 

Symptoms include:


As with all cancers, a key to successful treatment is an early diagnosis. If you or a loved one is concerned that they may be suffering from symptoms related to bone cancer, reach out to Baylor Scott & White Greater Dallas Orthopaedics today to schedule a consultation.

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