This information has been written for patients, their families and friends and the general public to help them understand more about primary bone cancer and how it is diagnosed and treated.

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What is primary bone cancer?

Primary bone cancer, sometimes known as a bone sarcoma, is a cancer that starts in a cell found in the bone.

Sarcoma is the name given to a cancer that starts in the connective tissue. The connective tissue plays a supportive role in the body and includes tissues such as the bone, cartilage, muscle and fat.

Primary bone cancer can develop in any bone in the body but most commonly is found in the long bones of the lower body (34%), such as the thigh (femur) or shin bone (tibia).

Every year, around 562 people in the UK alone will develop primary bone cancer at an average rate of 2 cases per day. In 2017 the total number of cancer cases in UK was 363,484. Primary bone cancer represents 0.155% (rounded up to 0.2%) of all cancer diagnosis in UK.

When combining known primary bone cancer incidences, there are approximately 52,000 cases of primary bone cancer cases reported each year worldwide, and a diagnosis of primary bone cancer is made every 10 minutes somewhere in the world.

Cancer cells can separate from a tumour elsewhere in the body and spread to the bones. This is called secondary bone cancer and its management can be very different to primary bone cancer; please see our information section on secondary bone cancer for more information.