How is osteosarcoma treated?
Osteosarcoma is treated with a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation therapy. 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. This treatment is usually started before surgery to kill the tumor or make it smaller.
Surgery is performed to remove the tumor. Almost everyone who has this type of cancer can have "limb-sparing" surgery. In this surgery, the tumor is removed along with the area of bone that it grew in. Then the doctor replaces the missing bone so that, after rehabilitation, the joint will still work normally. In some cases, the doctor may recommend amputation (removal of the limb) as the best way to remove the tumor.
After the surgery, the doctor may recommend more chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy help to kill any remaining cancer cells in the body that might be left after surgery.
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.
Many people who have osteosarcoma will need physical therapy for several months after the surgery. If amputation is necessary, rehabilitation may last for much longer. There are many new prosthetic treatments now available to help people who have had amputations regain movement and independence.
After the treatment is over, you or your loved one will:
- Need to see the bone cancer specialist regularly for several years
- Have frequent CT scans of the lungs, bone scans, and X-rays to see if the tumor comes back or travels to the lungs or other parts of the body
- Have X-rays to check for problems with any replaced pieces of 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