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Osteosarcoma: Overview

What is osteosarcoma?

An osteosarcoma is a tumor made up of cancer cells that occurs in or around bone. It is the most common type of bone cancer in children and adolescents and is the sixth most common type of cancer in this age group.

Osteosarcoma usually occurs in school-age children and adolescents at the time when their bones are growing very rapidly. The most common tumor locations include the lower end of the thigh bone (femur) around the knee, the upper end of the shin bone (tibia) and the upper end of the arm (humerus), all of which are the fastest growing ends of our long bones. The tumor most often begins inside the bone but occasionally occurs on the surface of the bone or in the soft tissue area next to the bone.

When most osteosarcomas are diagnosed, they are localized, meaning the cancer cells have not spread beyond the bone or nearby tissues to other parts of the body. Sometimes at diagnosis, however, the tumor can be found to have metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body. The most common locations for osteosarcoma to spread are the lungs or other bones in the body.

Who gets osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma usually occurs in school-age children (ages 8-12) and adolescents at the time when their bones are growing very rapidly. Osteosarcoma occurs in both boys and girls. The majority of osteosarcomas have no known cause and there is no known method of prevention. There has been no association between osteosarcoma and trauma or environmental exposure.

Helpful resources for osteosarcoma:

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