Primary bone cancer, in which a tumour originates in the bone, is relatively rare. The National Cancer Institute estimates there were fewer than 2,600 cases of primary bone cancer in the U.S. in 2009. Certain types of bone cancer, such as osteosarcoma, are more common in children and young adults. Most cases of bone cancer occur in the long bones of the arm and leg, according to the Mayo Clinic. Signs and symptoms of bone cancer are usually localised in the area of the tumour.
The most common symptom of bone cancer in the arm is pain in the affected area. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the pain is often dull and achy rather than sharp, and it may or may not worsen after activity. Rest and pain medications may do nothing for the pain, which can be worse at night. The pain may gradually get worse as the tumour grows. The area may also feel tender, as if it is bruised.
As the cancer grows in the arm, it may cause swelling. The swelling may be worse if the tumour is near a joint, such as the elbow or shoulder, and cause stiffness, making movement difficult. There may also be pressure in the area. Occasionally, bone cancer can manifest as a painless mass, in which a lump or swelling is the only symptom.
As the tumour grows, it may weaken the bones in the arm, leading to increased risk of fractures. Although the tumour itself can grow so large as to exert enough pressure to fracture the bone on its own, the more likely scenario is a fracture from a fall or minor injury. Kidshealth.org says bone cancers are sometimes discovered after you seek treatment for a fracture.
Bone cancer, like other cancers, can cause some symptoms of illness. This may include fatigue, fever, night sweats, anaemia and weight loss. The presence of these symptoms may indicate the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. Though these symptoms are common with many other conditions besides cancer, you should see a doctor if they persist or if you experience them along with other bone cancer symptoms.