Benign Bone Tumors | Symptoms & Treatment | Washington DC, Baltimore | MedStar Health
Dr Matthew Wallace talks with a patient during an office visit at MedStar Health.

We offer specialized, coordinated care for noncancerous or benign bone tumors.

Tumors, or abnormal tissue growths, can form in any bones in your body, but many times, they're noncancerous (benign). These bone tumors aren't usually life-threatening, and they don't typically spread to other parts of the body, unlike malignant bone tumors, or bone cancer. While uncommon, they occur primarily in children and adults between 20 to 40. They can develop in any part of the bone, from the center of the bone (bone marrow) to the surface.

Many patients with noncancerous bone tumors can live their lives unaffected by their condition. However, some of these tumors can grow and compress nearby internal nerves and blood vessels, which can cause severe pain and other problems. That's why it's important to seek care from an experienced team who knows when close surveillance is the right approach and when surgery or other treatments are necessary. If surgery is your best treatment option, you can expect our team to use the least invasive techniques to ensure you can successfully return to your life pain-free with the highest level of function.

At MedStar Health, our doctors are experts in diagnosing and treating bone tumors using the latest imaging technology and advanced tools. Working with a team of doctors with specialty training in different areas, we'll personalize a treatment plan that will work best for you.

 

Symptoms and risk factors

Pain is the most common bone tumor symptom.

Many patients find out they have a bone tumor after seeing a doctor because they have bone pain. Other signs of a tumor may include:

  • A lump or bump
  • Swelling
  • Unexplained broken bone (fracture)

These symptoms may be caused by other conditions so it's important to talk to your doctor if you notice anything unusual.

These tumors may occur in children who are still growing. Sometimes benign bone tumors are caused by growth hormones that affect boys and girls while they're still growing. Often, these tumors will stop growing once the bones reach full maturity.

 

Screening and prevention

There's no way to prevent these tumors.

Currently, there is no known way to prevent either cancerous or noncancerous bone tumors. The best thing you can do is see a doctor as soon as you notice pain or a lump so they can rule out cancer and determine the right next steps.

Diagnosis

After a thorough physical exam, we'll use advanced imaging to diagnose your bone tumor.

Your doctor will first ask about your medical history. They'll want to know about any medications you take, details about any injuries or illnesses you've had, and your symptoms. They'll also perform a physical exam to better understand the location and severity of your pain as well as its impact on your range of motion and function.

Your doctor will then order one or several advanced imaging tests to view the tumor. Our radiologists have subspecialty training in musculoskeletal radiology, making them experts in using the right imaging tools to accurately determine if a tumor is benign or malignant. These may include:

If we can't determine whether the tumor is cancerous by looking at it on imaging, we may need to perform a biopsy. During a biopsy, an interventional radiologist will use imaging to guide a needle to the tumor where they'll remove a sample of bone tissue. A pathologist with expertise in musculoskeletal pathology will review the biopsy under a microscope.

We understand that the waiting period can be overwhelming and worrisome, and we work quickly through this process to get you the answers you need. Your care team will stay in communication with you, providing any educational, emotional, or medical support that you need. A nurse navigator or physician assistant will serve as your primary point of contact, if you have questions or concerns.

Types of tumors

There are several types of benign bone tumors.

Some of the most common noncancerous bone tumors in adults and children include:

  • Giant Cell Tumors: These rare tumors are generally found in adults ages 20 to 40 and most commonly develop in the knee, wrist, hips, shoulders, and lower back. A giant cell tumor can quickly cause damage, usually developing at the end of longer bones near joints.
  • Chondroblastomas: These tumors tend to develop in children and are found at the ends of the upper arm bone and upper leg bone, where they can damage growth plates and joints.
  • Aneurysmal Bone Cysts: These tumors tend to affect children and younger adults, return (recur) after treatment, and cause the bones in the arms, legs, trunk, or skull to expand dramatically.
  • Osteoid Osteomas: These bone tumors form in any bone, causing extreme pain from the chemicals they make that affect surrounding nerves.

Treatments

When benign bone tumors need treatment, we offer the most advanced, least invasive options.

Most bone tumors don't cause problems and therefore don't need treatment. In these instances, your doctor will carefully monitor your tumor to ensure it doesn't grow or start to affect your quality of life. Some childhood tumors may even fully resolve over time as the bone matures with age.

However, some benign bone tumors grow aggressively and cause extreme pain, affecting your ability to do everyday activities. When that happens, your orthopedic oncologist may recommend surgery to remove the tumor with the least amount of impact on nearby healthy tissue.

Your treatment plan will be designed to meet your individual needs, taking into account the size, type, and location of your tumor, as well as your age, preferences, and goals. Our surgeons also work closely on a multidisciplinary team that involves other specialists, including interventional radiologists. Some patients benefit from other treatment options, including:

  • Cryosurgery: The tumor or cyst is frozen with liquid nitrogen and destroyed.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA): Radiofrequency waves heat and destroy the tumor.

Surgery

When surgery is your best treatment option, our orthopedic oncologists and surgeons are experts in using the latest techniques to help patients return to the activities they love. By using specialized orthopedic hardware, bone grafting, and expandable implants, we're uniquely equipped to care for bone tumors that affect limbs. These advanced approaches allow us to preserve limbs in the majority of our patients, thereby avoiding the need for amputation.

Following treatment, we'll monitor the tumor site regularly, as it is possible for the noncancerous tumor to come back and require additional treatment.

Looking for expert cancer care?

With multiple locations throughout the region, patients have access to many of the nation’s renowned cancer specialists offering high quality care, second opinions and a chance for better outcomes close to where they live and work. Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the nation’s comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), serves as the research engine allowing patients access to clinical trials that often lead to breakthroughs in cancer care.

Our locations

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MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9103 Franklin Square Dr.
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
Suite 220
Baltimore, MD 21237

Why choose us

Our doctors are experts in complex surgeries and reconstruction, including limb-salvage surgery. Our orthopedic oncologists and surgeons are pioneers finding new ways to perform surgery while preserving healthy tissue. As a result, our limb-salvage rate is over 95 percent, giving our patients a better chance at a return to normal function following a bone tumor. And, we work closely with other colleagues, including plastic surgeons, to rebuild the affected bone.

We offer coordinated, team-based care under the same roof. Whether you see us in Baltimore or Washington, D.C., we involve all of the specialists necessary to your care from the beginning. Many times, you can receive any diagnostic imaging and testing within the same building, minimizing travel to and from appointments and other sites. This collaboration leads to faster, more accurate diagnoses and the best course of treatment personalized to you.

You'll gain access to our entire network of primary and specialty care as you recover and return to your life. As the largest health system in the region, we offer conveniently located primary care and specialty care at dozens of locations close to where you live and work. Because we use the same electronic health record, we seamlessly communicate with your entire care team. This also includes world-class rehabilitation services, which can help you regain function and mobility after surgery.

Clinical trials and research

Clinical trials

Orthopedic clinical trials are research studies that test the newest medical procedures or drugs to determine how safe and effective they are. We actively participate in clinical trials, offering our patients the opportunity to be among the first to benefit from a new therapy or surgical approach.

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Research

Patients from all over the United States and the world seek the physicians at MedStar Health for their expertise in complex bone tumor surgery. Our research has led to some of the latest and most innovative methods to treat bone tumors with the least amount of impact to the healthy structures of the body. For example, we were pioneers in expandable implants for young patients who are still growing, preventing the need for amputation.

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Support services

Personalized rehabilitation

We offer comprehensive rehabilitation services that include outpatient physical and occupational therapy in convenient locations throughout Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Rehabilitation can help you to regain strength, function, and range of motion as you recover from surgery and get back to your favorite activities.

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