Benign Bone Tumors, Cysts and Other Less Common Bone and Soft Tissue Lesions
Benign bone tumors are non-cancerous, abnormal growths of tissue in children’s bones. Benign tumors and cysts don’t spread to other parts of the body and can often be treated without surgery.
Benign bone tumors are more common than malignant tumors and only rarely degenerate into malignant tumors. As benign tumors, they can become problematic and require expert treatment if they weaken the surrounding bones or cause pain from pressure on surrounding nerves or blood vessels.
At Children’s Health, we are dedicated to providing your child with comprehensive and compassionate care if they need treatment for a benign bone tumor or cyst. Our orthopedic and pediatric oncology specialists can manage any complex care cases.
Our experts use the latest tools and technology to accurately diagnose benign bone tumors and cysts. After diagnosis, we work with you and your child to design an individualized treatment plan.
Benign tumors that may need treatment include:
- Non-ossifying fibromas (NOFs): The most common benign bone tumor, NOFs are typically found in the lower thighbone (femur) or the ends of the shinbone (tibia). They do not become cancerous.\
- Osteochondroma: These tumors are found in the arms, shoulders and legs. They develop in the growth plates at the ends of the bones, areas that later harden when children become full-grown. Extra bone and cartilage can form one tumor or several. (Learn more about growth plate injuries.)
- Aneurysmal and unicameral (simple) bone cysts: Cysts are cavities in bones that fill with fluid, and are most commonly found in the arms, shoulders or legs. Simple cysts are usually painless but can cause fractures. An aneurysmal cyst is a group of blood-filled cysts that can deform the bone.
Most often, children with benign bone tumors and cysts don’t experience symptoms. When a benign bone tumor or cysts grows large enough to interfere with function or movement, your child may experience pain or a dull ache in the affected area.
At Children’s Health, our experienced physicians start with a physical exam. We may also order imaging scans to confirm a benign bone tumor diagnosis.
Diagnostic tests may include:
- X-ray: Uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to take detailed images of the bones
- CT (computed tomography) scan: Uses X-rays to make detailed images of the bones
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan: Uses magnetic fields and radio waves to take detailed pictures of the injured area
- Bone scans: Uses a small, safe amount of radioactive substance to make detailed images of the bones
If your child is diagnosed with a benign bone tumor or cyst, your doctor will start with conservative treatment, including an observation period during which periodic X-rays are used to see if the tumor is shrinking or growing. Most often, benign bone tumors and cysts go away on their own. Our physicians are here to help ensure that happens.
If your child’s symptoms worsen or the tumor grows significantly, your child’s doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tumor.
Children’s Health is also studying the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with special ultrasound, an approach called magnetic resonance imaging guided high intensity focused ultrasound, or MR-HIFU. The aim is to heat tumors, causing their blood vessels to dilate and let in more chemotherapy, potentially reducing chemotherapy dose and toxicity. The approach provides a treatment option for patients with noncancerous bone tumors to avoid surgery.
Learn more about benign bone tumors and cysts in children:
Can benign (noncancerous) tumors turn into malignant (cancerous) tumors?
It’s very rare for benign tumors to spread or become cancerous. Some benign bone tumors can come back after treatment, though, and require additional therapy.