Signs Your Hip Pain Could Be Bone Cancer

Hip pain is a common problem, affecting about 10% of the general population and increasing with age, according to the Journal of Anaesthesiology Clinical Pharmacology. Healthline notes that the most common cause of hip pain is arthritis. Osteoarthritis is particularly common in older adults due to the natural degeneration of the joints that comes with aging. However, hip pain is also a symptom of bone cancer and various other conditions, per the Mayo Clinic.

The factors that increase the risk of developing hip pain include age, genetics, obesity, gender, day-to-day occupational activities, and injury, per a 2011 study published in the journal Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. Although age is a major factor, hip pain is also common in young adults and athletes due to the stress and strain on the hip joint from physical activity, explains the study.

When occurring in young people, hip pain might indicate certain types of bone cancer that are more common in teens (via the American Cancer Society). It's, therefore, important to recognize the signs to ensure early diagnosis and treatment.

Which type of bone cancer affects the hips?

According to Healthline, hip pain can be a symptom of chondrosarcoma, a type of primary bone cancer that generally begins in the cartilage cells. Cartilage is a type of connective tissue that cushions the joints and gives shape to the bones, explains the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). The most commonly affected cartilage cells are the pelvis, thighs, knees, and arms, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.

According to a 2022 article published on Statpearls, chondrosarcoma accounts for 20% of all bone cancers, with 600 people being diagnosed yearly, per the Cleveland Clinic. According to the Clinic, the condition is more common in adults and typically occurs in people over the age of 40. Men are equally likely to develop chondrosarcoma as women.

The exact cause of bone cancer is not fully understood, but it is believed to develop from changes in the DNA of bone cells, explains the Mayo Clinic. Other risk factors include age and diagnosis of other bone disorders, including Maffucci syndrome and Ollier disease, says the Clinic.

Other symptoms of bone cancer to look out for

The symptoms of chondrosarcoma can vary depending on the location and stage of the cancer. Pain is a common symptom of chondrosarcoma. The pain might feel worse at night, might not improve after significant rest, and might gradually worsen over time, per the University of Virginia. Some weakness and/or limitation of movement may also be present in the affected bone, explains the University. According to the Cedars Sinai Medical Center, you might also notice a large lump and feel pressure around the mass. Other possible symptoms include weakness or bladder and bowel control problems, if the tumor pushes on the spinal cord, explains the Mayo Clinic.

Generally speaking, it's important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it's essential to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis if you are experiencing these symptoms persistently. It is also important to note that symptoms may not be present in the early stages of chondrosarcoma.

Other cancers that have hip pain as a symptom

According to Healthline, hip pain can be a symptom of prostate cancer, which can also cause pain or discomfort in the thigh, or lower back (as it can spread to the bones). Prostate cancer normally starts in the prostate gland, a small gland in the male reproductive system (via the American Cancer Society).

According to the Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center, ovarian cancer also has hip pain as a symptom. This type of cancer normally starts in the ovaries, the reproductive organs in women that produce eggs, says the Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, back pain, feeling full quickly, fatigue, and changes in bowel movement.

Other cancers that can have hip pain as a symptom include metastatic cancer (which can spread to the bones and cause pain in the hip or other areas) and leukemia, which is a cancer of the white blood cells in the bone marrow.

Other possible causes of hip pain

As mentioned, hip pain can also be caused by a variety of other conditions, some of which are more common than others. According to WebMD, one common cause of hip pain is hip osteoarthritis. This is a degenerative condition that causes the cartilage in the hip joint to break down, leading to pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis is more common in older adults and can be caused by wear and tear on the joint over time.

Bursitis is another possible cause of hip pain that's caused by inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that cushions the joint. Bursitis can be caused by overuse or injury, commonly affecting the hip joint (via the Mayo Clinic).

Other possible causes of hip pain include sciatica and snapping hip syndrome. Sciatica is a condition that causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the leg and hip due to compression of the sciatic nerve (via Spine Universe). On the other hand, snapping hip syndrome is caused by the snapping of tendons or other tissue over the hip joint. It can cause a snapping or popping sensation, as well as pain and weakness in the hip, per WebMD.

When to see a doctor for hip pain

It's important to see a doctor if you are experiencing chronic hip pain, or if the pain is severe or accompanied by other symptoms. Some of the signs that may indicate the need to see a doctor for hip pain include persistent severe pain and pain that prevents you from undertaking day-to-day activities (via Healthline). Also, if the pain is accompanied by fever, infection, deformation of the joints, or other systemic symptoms, a visit to the doctor is needed.

Your doctor might need to conduct a physical examination and may order imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans, to get a better look at the hip joint. They might also ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination to assess your hip joint. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist, such as an orthopedic doctor or rheumatologist, if they suspect a specific condition or if your case is particularly complex.