Bone and Soft Tissue Tumors

Tumours of bone and soft tissue are rare but can affect younger athletes in their 20's and 30's. The tumours can often cause bone pain and may sometimes be mistaken for other injuries, such as stress fractures. Here are some of the more common tumours that may be found in bones and soft tissues.

Bone tumors

Osteosarcomata - This can occur at either end of the long bones of the body, more commonly in the lower limb producing pain in the joints. Pain is aggravated by activity. Diagnosis of osteosarcomata is often made by X-ray revealing a 'moth-eaten' appearance. New bone can form in the soft tissues and the outer tissue surrounding the bone can start to lift. In young athletes, these symptoms may indicate osteomyelitis (an inflammatory process of bone). It is important that any child with bone pain is given an X-ray.

Osteoid Osteoma is a benign (non-cancerous) bone tumor with symptoms of exercise-related bone pain. Note this can often be misdiagnosed as a stress fracture - even the bone scan appearance is similar to that of a stress fracture. Osteoid osteomas occur most frequently in children and young people. They often cause pain and are most commonly found in the leg, but they do not usually spread to other areas of the body. This condition is characterized by night pain and symptoms disappearing after taking aspirin.

Malignant tumors for example breast cancer, lung cancer or prostate cancer may spread to the bone. A previously treated tumour can be related to and causing pain in the body. Breast carcinoma can also mimic a frozen shoulder. Knowing an individual's full medical history is therefore crucial for doctor's to correctly diagnose conditions. Signs of malignancy include night pain, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss and malaise.

Soft tissue tumors

Synovial Sarcoma - This frequently involves the knee and ankle more than other joints. Symptoms include pain, often at night or during activity, as well as instability of the joint and swelling.

Synovial Chondromatosis and Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis are benign tumours of the synovium found mostly in the knee. Symptoms of this can be 'mechanical', such as locking and popping sensations.

Ganglion Cysts are found mainly in the wrist, hand, and knee. They are lined by tissue and filled with fluid. They often attach to a joint capsule or tendon sheath and may be connected to the synovial cavity (which is the space between joints filled with synovial fluid). They do not usually have any symptoms but can cause pain and deformity.