A lump on your foot isn’t likely to be cancer. But if pain and swelling don’t go away, you may want to contact a doctor. They can perform a biopsy to confirm if the lump is cancerous.

Cancer can start in any tissue in your body, including your bone. A lump in your foot can potentially be bone cancer, but it’s not likely.

When tumors do form in your feet, they usually form in soft tissue. Even so, only about 15% to 25% of bony tumors of the foot are cancerous.

Read on to learn more about bone cancer of your feet, including the indications your lump might be cancerous and how doctors treat cancerous lumps.

Bone cancer of the foot is most frequent in children and adolescents and often occurs in the heel. It can cause a lump that feels soft or hard to your touch.

Experts divide bone cancer into several types, depending on what type of cells the cancer forms in:

  • Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma develops in the cells that create bone tissue and is the most common bone cancer in children. Only about 1% of cases occur in the foot.
  • Ewing sarcoma: Ewing sarcoma can develop in bone tissue or soft tissue. In a 2022 study, researchers found that 71.4% of 14 cancerous bone tumors of the feet or ankles treated at one university hospital were Ewing sarcoma.
  • Chondrosarcoma: Chondrosarcoma develops in cartilage cells. It’s the most common bone tumor of the ankle and foot in adults more than 40 years old.
  • Metastatic cancer: Metastatic tumors develop when cancer spreads from another body part, like your lungs. Experts estimate that cancer spreads to the hands or feet in anywhere between 1 in 333 and 1 in 14,286 people with cancer.

In a small 2017 research review, experts reported the following frequency of tumors in a group of 70 people with bone cancer of the foot:

AreaNumber of peopleEwing’s sarcomaChondrosarcomaOsteosarcomaSpread from other sites

How common is bone cancer in the foot?

It’s difficult to estimate the frequency of foot bone cancer due to its rarity. Only about 25% of bone tumors in the foot are cancerous, and only about 6% of bone tumors occur in the foot.

The American Cancer Society estimates about 3,970 people in the United States will receive a bone cancer diagnosis in 2023.

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People with bone cancer of the foot often contact their doctor about “footwear problems.” They may limp without evidence of hip or knee trouble, or have pain and swelling. The swelling usually doesn’t appear until the late stages.

Ewing sarcoma can cause infection symptoms like fever and signs of inflammation on a blood test.

General symptoms of bone cancer include:

  • persistent bone pain that gets worse over time and is bothersome at night
  • redness or discoloration over the bone and swelling
  • a noticeable lump
  • a bone that fractures more easily than usual

It’s a good idea to contact a doctor if you have unexplained swelling, pain, or a lump in your foot. It’s especially important to connect with a doctor if bone pain:

  • worsens at night
  • doesn’t improve with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil)
  • appears as a persistent ache or an ache that comes and goes

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine your foot. They may order X-rays to detect changes to your bone.

Doctors always need a biopsy to confirm a bone cancer diagnosis. They can do this in two ways:

  • Core needle biopsy: The doctor inserts a thin needle into your bone to remove a small tissue sample while you’re asleep.
  • Open biopsy: A surgeon makes a cut into your bone to remove a larger tissue sample while you’re asleep.

Your doctor may order additional imaging tests if a biopsy reveals cancer. These might include:

What else can cause a lump on your foot?

Other reasons you may develop a lump in your foot or ankle include:

Learn more about the potential causes of lumps on your feet.

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Your doctor will likely want to initiate treatment as soon as possible. Treatment depends on factors like the:

  • type of bone cancer
  • size and stage of the cancer
  • age and general health of a person

Treatment usually includes some combination of:

Researchers are currently investigating the benefit of:

  • immunotherapy
  • a type of bisphosphonate called zoledronate
  • targeted therapies

Bone cancer generally has a good outlook if it hasn’t spread to distant parts of your body. Survival rates vary based on cancer type.

The American Cancer Society lists the following 5-year relative survival rate for chondrosarcoma:

Stage5-year relative survival rate
All stages79%

The 5-year relative survival rate reflects how many people with the cancer are alive after 5 years compared to people without the cancer.

Chondrosarcoma of the foot tends to be less aggressive than in other parts of your body, especially when it’s in your forefoot.

Bone cancer in your foot is rare. Lumps in your foot have many other potential causes other than cancer.

Bone cancer usually has a good outlook when doctors detect it early. Treatment usually consists of some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.