Not all tumors are a dangerous cancer. Some abnormal growths are benign and cause little or no problems in the body, and may even be discovered by accident. Others are generally harmless, but growing in an area that can make them uncomfortable. This is the concern for osteochondromas.
Growing Bony Bumps
Osteochondromas are one of the most common benign tumors, particularly in children. They’re actually a developmental abnormality—they grow out of a child’s growth plate and get larger as the rest of the child grows. When the skeleton stops growing, so does the osteochondroma. The protrusion often has a round bulb with a thin stalk; however, it can have a wider base and lie close to your limb. No one is sure what causes a bone to develop the bump, though the condition seems to have a genetic component.
Many of these tumors are asymptomatic, so you may not even notice you have one until it’s discovered while investigating other issues. However, some do grow in ways or places that put you at greater risk for pain or injury. The bump may rub against footwear and make it uncomfortable to wear shoes. It may pinch a nerve or create friction under a tendon or muscle, making your limb painful to move. Rarely, the problem can pinch blood vessels and change your circulation. The stalk of the protrusion can also be more fragile and prone to fractures. Although it’s highly uncommon, the growth could potentially change from benign to cancerous as well.
What Can Be Done?
Even though the risk for developing bone cancer from osteochondromas is small, it’s best to monitor the bony protrusion just to be sure. This allows Dr. Sanjay Patel and our staff to catch any abnormal changes or other problems before they advance too far. Painful bone tumors, on the other hand, need to be treated. Our team will carefully examine the mass to make sure it is benign. We will need X-rays or other diagnostic images to accurately identify the problem and its size. In some cases we may request a bone biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Once we have identified the problem, we can determine what, if any, treatment is needed.
Conservative care can’t do much for a bony growth. Changing your shoes may help relieve the pressure on the protrusion, and physical therapy may help reduce the effect of the bump rubbing against soft tissues. However, the most effective way to deal with the deformity is to surgically remove it. This is usually only considered if the mass is causing pain, makes moving normally uncomfortable, or has an unusually large cartilage cap covering it. Otherwise the mass is monitored so that, if anything changes, it can be addressed right away.
Osteochondromas are a relatively common bone tumor that may or may not cause problems. Most lesions aren’t discovered for many years. However, if you have a hard, bony bump on your lower limbs, particularly if it causes pain, you shouldn’t ignore it. Let Dr. Sanjay Patel and our team at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. in Connecticut evaluate it and help. You can make an appointment with us by calling—(203) 876-7736 for the Milford office, or (203) 288-4055 for our Hamden location—or using our website contact form.