What are the Different Types of Bone Cancer Treatment?

Ron Marr
Ron Marr
A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.

Bone cancers are often broken down into the broad categories of primary and secondary. The former begins in the bone itself, and is quite rare. The latter is cancer that began elsewhere in the body, metastasized, and moved into the bone. A number of specific cancers exist within the two categories, and are treated according to type and severity.

The factors that determine bone cancer treatment are based upon the cancer type, age and general health of the patient, and the cancer’s metastatic stage. Cancers localized to the tumor and neighboring cells are usually treated differently than cancers that have spread. In the majority of cases, bone cancer treatment involves surgical removal of the cancerous tumor. This is especially true with localized bone cancers, and the removal is often performed in conjunction with radiation therapy.

Different bone cancers are often age-specific; this is why bone cancer treatments vary. The most common bone cancer is multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow that usually affects patients over age 50. Osteosarcoma is more prevalent in teenagers, and frequently appears in the hip, shoulder, or knee. Ewing’s sarcoma is seen in patients as young as five years old, and can affect the legs, ribs, pelvis, and upper arms. Chrondrosarcoma affects people over 40, and is typically a cancer of the hip, shoulder, or pelvis.

The location of the tumor plays a huge role in bone cancer treatment. Though surgical removal of the tumor is almost a given, amputation is often a distinct possibility. If the tumor is large, growing at a rapid rate, or has spread to nerves and blood vessels, amputation might be the only way to save the patient’s life.

Limb salvage surgery is less destructive than amputation. The diseased area of the bone is surgically excised, but effort is made to save the musculature, nerves, and blood vessels. The section of removed bone is usually replaced with a prosthetic implant. In some cases, if a matching donor is available, a bone transplant is possible.

Radiation therapy is standard in bone cancer treatment. Sometimes it is used as a stand-alone procedure to shrink tumors prior to surgery. More often it is used in conjunction with amputation and limb salvage surgery to kill cancerous cells that might have escaped the surgeon’s scalpel.

Chemotherapy might be a part of bone cancer treatment, but it generally comes into play during only the most serious and life-threatening cases. Chemotherapy, or chemo, basically poisons and kills the malignant cells that have spread from the original tumor and are moving through the bloodstream. Chemo is something of a last resort in most bone cancer treatments.

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    • A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
      By: Alila
      A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.