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What Are the Different Types of Osteosarcoma Treatments?

By Alex Terris
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are three main types of osteosarcoma treatments, although others are going through clinical trials all the time. Surgery is probably the most important type because it involves removing the cancerous tissue from the bone. Chemotherapy is also often prescribed, as it can shrink the tumor before the operation and kill any remaining cells. Radiotherapy, which involves eliminating the cancerous cells with high energy radiation, is less commonly used than the other two treatments, but is effective in some situations.

Although osteosarcoma is the most common form of primary bone cancer, it is also a relatively rare condition. For this reason, osteosarcoma treatments are only performed by a few specialized hospitals. The best treatment for a particular patient generally depends on the condition's severity, location, and the patient’s current health. Cancer is graded depending on whether it is low or high grade and whether it has spread to other parts of the body; this also affects treatment options.

Surgery is one of the most important and effective types of osteosarcoma treatments. In the past, bone cancer surgery involved amputating the whole limb, but this is no longer always the case. Instead, a surgeon can sometimes remove the part of the bone affected by the cancer. Once the bone has been removed, it’s replaced by bone from another part of the body or a metal prosthesis. There are, however, situations in which bone saving surgery is not possible and the whole limb must be removed.

Along with surgery, chemotherapy is among the different types of osteosarcoma treatments. It is usually implemented in conjunction with surgery to improve the chance of a successful outcome. If, for example, a large tumor is found, chemotherapy is often applied before the surgery to reduce the tumor to a size that can be removed. Once surgery has been performed, chemotherapy is usually continued to improve the chances of all the cancer cells being killed. Side effects of this form of treatment are relatively common, but they are often manageable with drugs.

Radiotherapy is one of the lesser used forms of osteosarcoma treatments, but it can still be effective in certain situations. The goal of the treatment is to kill the cancer cells without harming the important healthy tissue surrounding them. Depending on the strength of the dose, radiotherapy side effects can include tiredness and nausea. Longer radiotherapy programs are also more likely to cause side effects.

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