Osteosarcoma - Childhood and Adolescence: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 06/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the changes and medical problems that can be a sign of osteosarcoma. Use the menu to see other pages.

What are the symptoms and signs of osteosarcoma?

The symptoms of osteosarcoma depend on the bone in which the tumor developed. Children and teens with osteosarcoma may experience one or more of the following symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, children and teens with osteosarcoma do not have any of the symptoms and signs described below. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not cancer.

  • Pain in a bone or joint that gets worse over time, especially if the pain is severe enough that it interferes with sleep

  • A noticeable mass or lump in an arm or leg, particularly in the areas around a shoulder or knee

  • A broken bone with no injury that sufficiently explains how it occurred

  • Back pain or a loss of bowel or bladder control. These symptoms can occur if the tumor is in the pelvis or at the base of the spine. These are very uncommon symptoms.

Osteosarcoma seems to relate to rapid bone growth. This is because it most often occurs around the age when most adolescents' bodies go through their growth spurt. It is also slightly more common in boys than girls, which may be related to boys usually being taller on average.

If you are concerned about any changes your child experiences, please talk with your child’s doctor. Your doctor will try to understand what is causing your child’s symptom(s). They may do an exam and order tests to understand the cause of the problem, which is called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative and supportive care," which is not the same as hospice care given at the end of life. You can receive palliative and supportive care at any time during cancer treatment. This type of care focuses on managing symptoms and supporting people who face serious illnesses, such as cancer. Learn more in this guide’s section on Coping with Treatment.

Be sure to talk with your child’s health care team about the symptoms your child experiences, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.