Osteosarcoma | Diagnosis & Tests


What tests will the doctor use to tell if my child has osteosarcoma?

Physical exam:
 The doctor will check for general signs of health as well as examine the place around the swelling, lump or break. The doctor will also ask about any previous health conditions or medical treatments.

X-ray: An X-ray is usually the first imaging test your doctor will order. If there is a tumor, it will usually show up on the X-ray.

MRI and CT: The doctor may also order an MRI scan, a CT scan (also called a CAT scan), or both. MRI scans take pictures that help the doctor see if the tumor has destroyed any of the bone, and a CT scan is useful to look at the chest and belly to see if the disease has spread. Before a CT scan, the doctor may inject or ask you to swallow a special kind of dye. The dye helps the organs or tissues show up more clearly on the scan.

Biopsy: A biopsy is important because other malignant (cancerous) tumors and some infections can look like osteosarcoma on an X-ray. For the biopsy, a doctor with training in the treatment of bone cancer takes a piece of the tumor from the bone, sometimes with a needle, sometimes through an incision. This piece of tissue is looked at under a microscope to see if the tumor is an osteosarcoma.

Other tests: The doctor may recommend other tests to see if the cancer has spread to the lungs or other organs. For example, a bone scan will help the doctor see if the cancer has spread to other bones. Other tests may also be needed.


Osteosarcoma: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment by JC Wittig, J Bickels, D Priebat, J Jelinek, K Kellar-Graney, B Shmookler, MM Malawer (American Family Physician March 15, 2002, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020315/1123.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 04/03