How Dangerous are Benign Bone Tumors?

Benign bone tumors are much more common than cancerous tumors of the bone. They are also more common in adults under 30 years of age and children. Their growth can be stimulated by hormones that help in normal growth. A bone tumor forms when bone cells begin dividing rapidly within the bone and forming a new mass. Benign bone tumors are most commonly found in the thigh bone and in the arm bones.

If your child has been diagnosed with a benign bone tumor, there are probably a lot of different thoughts and questions running through your mind. You are probably thankful it is not cancer, yet still concerned about what other problems it may pose in the life and health of your precious child. Though not generally life or limb threatening, there are other problems that can be caused by benign bone tumors. Here are some of the most common and most concerning.

Bone Destruction
Some benign bone tumors are large and grow aggressively. These types of tumors, though still benign, have the ability to destroy a bone. Their aggressive growth and large size can kill normal bone tissue. These tumors have the best outcome if they are medically managed early on in their growth.

Bone Fractures
Just as some benign bone tumors have the ability to destroy bones, they also weaken bone tissue. Bone tissue that is of compromised integrity is more likely to be brittle and weak. Because of the weak tissue, these bones are more susceptible to breaking. 

Poor Growth and Development
Benign bone tumors can also have an effect on a child’s normal growth and development. Bones may grow differently, or grow weaker, depending on the size, location, and type of bone tumor. Benign bone tumors can also delay normal growth and development, as the tumors are taking vital blood and nutrients away from normal growing bone tissue.

Deformities and Swelling
With various benign bone tumors, deformities may be present. This again depends on the size and location of the tumor. Larger tumors or tumors near joints can cause more noticeable deformities. Swelling is also a normal finding with bone tumors, which can lead to discomfort and greater deformity.

Pain
Many bone tumors, though benign, can cause a lot of pain in children. Resting the affected area or taking NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen, can help during times of increased pain. If a fracture or normal growth problem is occurring, the child may experience more pain. Tumors can also cause pain by putting pressure on nearby nerves.

Treatment
Depending on the type of tumor, and its size and location, treatment plans and options can vary. For smaller, non-aggressive tumors, your child’s doctor may recommend just keeping an eye on the tumor. This can be done with appointments a few times a year, or even every couple of months. It can also be done by keeping an eye on the affected area at home and notifying the doctor with any changes in pain, physical function, or size of a tumor. Other treatments involve physical therapy and even surgery. With surgery, most benign bone tumors are unlikely to recur, as long as all of the tumor tissue has been removed.

Talk to your child’s doctor today to see what concerns you should have about your child’s benign bone tumor. The doctor can advise you as to what treatments may be the most appropriate for the type, size, and location of the tumor. Your child’s chances of a good outcome can be increased by receiving the right treatment methods sooner rather than later. Though benign bone tumors do not threaten lives, like malignant tumors do, they do need to be addressed, as they can pose some risks to your child’s growth and quality of life.

References:
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/orthopaedics-rheumatology/diseases-conditions/benign-bone-tumors.aspx
http://www.webmd.com/cancer/bone-tumors
http://www.seattlechildrens.org/medical-conditions/cancers-tumors/cancers-treatment/bone-tumors/