The diagnostic strategy to be used for a bone tumor depends on the ability of the clinician to make an accurate differential diagnosis on the basis of clinical information and plain radiographs. The clinician must be able to classify the patient as having a non-progressive or a progressive primary benign bone tumor, a primary malignant bone tumor, or a metastatic bone tumor. Only after assignment to one of these four categories can an effective diagnostic strategy ensue. If the clinical and radiographic information favors a diagnosis of malignant or aggressive benign bone tumor, the clinician should refer the patient to an experienced orthopaedic oncologist without performing additional diagnostic tests or a biopsy. If a soft-tissue mass is 5 cm in diameter or larger on physical examination, and especially if it is deep to the fascia, the patient should also be referred to an orthopaedic oncologist, without additional evaluation or biopsy, because of the relatively high probability that the mass is malignant.

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