How is osteosarcoma treated?
Osteosarcoma is treated with chemotherapy and surgery. For chemotherapy, your child or teenager will be given medicines that kill the main tumor and any tumor cells that have moved to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy treatment is normally recommended for about 6 months for cancer that has not spread. This treatment is usually started before surgery to kill the tumor or make it smaller. This makes surgery easier. If chemotherapy is not likely to alter the course of the cancer, surgery or amputation may be the first part of the treatment plan.
Almost everyone who has this cancer can have "limb-sparing" surgery. In this surgery, the tumor is removed along with the area of bone that it grew in. Sometimes an entire joint, like the knee joint, is removed. Then the missing bone is replaced with an artificial metal bone called an endoprosthesis (say: “end-o-pross-thee-sis”).
After the surgery, your child or teenager will have more chemotherapy.
What can we expect after treatment?
Today, about 3 out of 4 people who have osteosarcoma can be cured if the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. Almost everyone who is treated with limb-sparing surgery ends up with that arm or leg working well.
To make the leg or arm strong, and so that it works well again, your child or teenager will have to do special exercises for several months after the surgery. If amputation is necessary, your child or teenager will have intense rehabilitation for some time. There are many new prosthetic treatments now available that can help your child or teen regain movement and independence.
After the chemotherapy is over, your child or teenager will:
- Need to see the bone cancer specialist regularly for several years
- Have frequent CT scans of the lungs, bone scans and X-rays of the arm or leg to see if the tumor comes back in the bone, or travels to the lungs or other parts of the body
- Have X-rays to make sure that your child has no problems with the metal bone
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