Hip pain is fairly common. It can be caused by a variety of conditions, including illness, injury, and chronic diseases like arthritis. In rare cases, it can also be caused by cancer.
Read on to learn about which types of cancer can cause hip pain, common conditions that may be causing your discomfort, and when to see a doctor.
Although it’s rare, hip pain can be an indication of cancer. Some types of cancer have hip pain as a symptom. They include:
Primary bone cancer
Primary bone cancer is a malignant, or cancerous, tumor that originates in a bone. It’s very rare.
In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that 3,500 people will be diagnosed with primary bone cancer in 2019. It also states that less than 0.2 percent of all cancers are primary bone cancers.
Chondrosarcoma is a type of primary bone cancer that’s most likely to be found in the hip. It tends to grow in flat bones, like the shoulder blade, pelvis, and hip.
The other main types of primary bone cancer, such as osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma, tend to grow in the long bones of the arms and legs.
Metastatic cancer is a malignant tumor that spreads from one part of the body to another.
Cancer in the bones that spreads from another area of the body is called a bone metastasis. It’s more common than primary bone cancer.
Metastatic cancer can spread to any bone, but it most often spreads to bones in the middle of the body. One of the most common places for it to go is the hip or pelvis.
The cancers that metastasize to bone most often are breast, prostate, and lung. Another cancer that frequently metastasizes to bone is multiple myeloma, which is cancer that affects plasma cells, or white blood cells in the bone marrow.
Leukemia is another type of cancer that causes overproduction of a certain type of white blood cells. These cells are produced in the bone marrow, which is located in the center of the bones.
When these white blood cells overcrowd the bone marrow, it causes bone pain. Usually, the long bones in the arms and legs hurt first. A few weeks later, hip pain may develop.
Pain caused by metastatic bone cancer:
- is felt at and around the site of the metastasis
- is usually an achy, dull pain
- can be severe enough to wake a person from sleep
- is made worse by movement and activity
- may be accompanied by swelling at the site of the metastasis
There are many other medical conditions that can cause hip pain. This pain is often caused by a problem in one of the bones or structures that make up the hip joint.
Frequent noncancerous causes of hip pain include:
- Osteoarthritis. As people age, the cartilage in their joints starts to wear down. When that happens, it can no longer act as a cushion between the joints and bones. As the bones rub against each other, painful inflammation and stiffness in the joint can develop.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself, causing painful inflammation in the joint.
- Psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes a rash. In some people, it also causes painful inflammation and swelling in the joints.
- Septic arthritis. This is an infection in a joint that often causes painful swelling.
- Hip fracture. The top part of the femur (thigh bone) near the hip joint can break during a fall or when hit by a strong force. It causes severe hip pain.
- Stress fracture. This happens when repetitive movement, such as from long-distance running, causes the bones in the hip joint to gradually weaken and become painful. If not treated early enough, it can become a true hip fracture.
- Bursitis. This is when small fluid-filled sacs, called bursae, that cushion and lubricate the joint during movement become swollen and inflamed from repetitive movement and overuse.
- Osteomyelitis. This is a painful infection in the bone.
- Tendinitis. Tendons connect bones to muscle, and they can become inflamed and painful when the muscle is overused.
- Labral tear. When the circle of cartilage, called the labrum, in the hip joint gets torn because of trauma or overuse, it causes pain that worsens with hip movement.
- Muscle strain (groin strain). The muscles in the groin and anterior hip are commonly torn or stretched during sports and from overtraining, which causes painful inflammation in the muscle.
- Avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis). When the top end of the femur doesn’t get enough blood, the bone dies, causing pain.
When the pain in your hip is mild to moderate, it can usually be treated at home. You can try these tips to relieve discomfort:
- Try over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain and inflammation.
- Apply a hot or cold compress to the area for swelling, inflammation, and pain relief.
- Use compression wrapping for swelling.
- Rest the injured leg for a least a week or two until it’s healed. Avoid any physical activity that causes pain or seems to reinjure the area.
symptoms to watch out for
You should see a doctor if the pain is severe or you have symptoms of a serious condition that needs immediate treatment or surgical repair. These include:
- pain that’s severe, not getting better, or getting worse
- osteoarthritis that’s progressively getting worse or preventing you from doing things you want to do
- signs of a broken hip, such as severe hip pain when trying to stand or bear weight or toes that appear to be turned out to the side more than the other side
- a stress fracture that doesn’t respond to home treatments or seems to be getting worse
- a fever or other signs of infection
- a new or worsening deformity in the joint
Hip pain can be caused by many things. Usually it’s a musculoskeletal problem that can respond to at-home treatments.
But there are some serious conditions that cause hip pain and need to be evaluated by a doctor right away. A doctor can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Primary bone cancer is very rare, so it’s unlikely to be causing your bone pain. However, bone metastases are much more common and can cause bone pain.
It you have bone pain without injury, arthritis, or another explanation, you should be evaluated by your doctor to be sure your pain isn’t cause by a serious condition like cancer.