Q How do I know if a bone tumor is worrisome or not?
Depending on the condition that brings you into the foot doctor's office, in many instances initial x-rays will be taken to rule out fractures, assess joints and bones, and assess your foot structure. It is not uncommon to find tumors within the bones of the feet on x-ray, but these tumors are not usually the cause of your foot condition or pain. When these tumors are not near the site of pain, we refer to them as 'incidental findings' - meaning that we identified that they are there, but that they are likely not problematic.
The word 'tumor' has a bad connotation among many people. The definition states "an abnormal growth of cells within the bone." A tumor is not always cancer! In fact, when in the feet, there is a very slim chance that a tumor is cancerous. There are a few simple things that we look at to assess whether a bone tumor on an x-ray should be a cause for concern or not.
Initially when the x-rays are assessed, the size of the tumor is considered. Smaller lesions are of less concern. We also look at the consistency of the tumor - whether it appears solid and with the same radio density throughout or if it has variable densities within it. We also look to see if the tumor is affecting the strength of the bone in a way that could cause a future fracture. The risk of fracture depends also on the location of the bone and whether that part of the bone is routinely put under a great deal of pressure.
If a tumor of the bone is obviously large, irregular, causing damage to bone, has caused fracture to occur or is painful or changes quickly over time - referral for further assessment of the lesion is indicated. In instances where a lesion raises mild suspicion, referral for further assessment may again be indicated. There are also a few bone tumors that are VERY common in the feet and are completely benign. If these bone tumors present, we typically watch them. If they begin to grow quickly or cause pain at any point, they may be further assessed.
Chances are, if you haven't had a foot x-ray in the past, you have no concern about a tumor in the foot, because you haven't seen it! The only symptom of a possible bone tumor is pain in the foot, and this can be from a number of other things as well. Don't delay having your feet looked at by a trained specialist if you are in pain. Call Prairie Path Foot & Ankle Clinic today!