Types and Goals of Treatment for Primary Bone Cancer

Most people with primary bone cancer will have more than one treatment. The treatments you have depend on your age, general health, and the stage, as well as the type, of bone cancer.

Following are the treatments for primary bone cancer. They are listed from most commonly used to least commonly used:

  • Surgery. Often, the first operation is a biopsy your doctor performs to obtain a tissue sample from the tumor. A pathologist examines the tissue to determine if it is indeed cancer, and then identifies the specific type of tumor and how aggressive it is likely to be. Another surgery removes the tumor and a margin of surrounding tissue to ensure complete resection of the cancerous tissue. The surgeon will try not to harm your appearance or affect your limb function. Depending on the tumor location and size, this can be challenging. Sometimes, major reconstructive surgery is required. Limb amputation, less common,  may be the best option.

  • Chemotherapy. This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer. Usually, you take the drugs via an IV (intravenous) infusion in your vein. The drugs travel throughout your body in your bloodstream. Doctors typically  give chemotherapy on a schedule of cycles over a specific period of time. Your doctor may use chemotherapy to shrink tumors before they are surgically removed. The drugs may also be used on tumors that cannot be surgically removed. Sometime, you may have chemotherapy to treat cancer that has spread to distant places in your body. You may have chemotherapy before surgery, after surgery, or both.

  • Radiation therapy. This treatment kills cancer cells using high-energy X-rays. There are several types of radiation therapy. You may have external radiation, which is the most common. This type directs radiation through your skin to the tumor with a machine outside your body. You may have internal radiation. This involves inserting radioactive substances inside your body, usually through catheters. The catheters are in place for a short period of time. Sometimes, you may receive radiation therapy in the operating room. With a few exceptions, radiation therapy is not the mainstay of bone cancer treatment. However, sometimes radiation may be given to tumors that cannot be removed. It may be given to the area where the tumor was removed, but with margins too close to ensure complete resection. Recent advancements in radiation include Intensity-modulated radiation and proton beam therapies. Doctors also use radiation to ease the symptoms of bone cancer.

Doctors continually explore new ways to treat bone cancer. They test these new methods in clinical trials. Before starting treatment, ask your doctor if there are any clinical trials that you should consider.