ZocdocAnswersAre lytic lesions always a sign of cancer?

Question

Are lytic lesions always a sign of cancer?

Is a lytic lesion necessarily a sign of cancer? If not, what are the chances that any one lytic lesion is cancerous? A family member was recently having a bone x-ray, and the doctor located something she called a lytic lesion, but she couldn't explain what this has to do with cancer.

Answer

Lytic lesions are light areas found in otherwise dense bone on an x-ray, which suggest that something has destroyed or replaced that part of bone. There are both cancerous and noncancerous causes of lytic lesions, however given the potential for cancer this finding should be taken very seriously until cancer can be ruled out. The types of cancer that can cause lytic lesions include multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, as well as breast and lung cancer that get into the bones. Benign, noncancerous causes of lytic lesions include simple bone cysts, some types of bone infections, osteoblastoma, and chondroblastomas. Obviously, infections require treatment and even benign cysts may require treatment because they can cause deformity of the bone as well as pain. As always the diagnosis and the management of your family member's particular condition will require a physical examination by her personal physician. Setting up an office visit with her primary care doctor is very strongly recommended.

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