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Bone cancer treatments

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on June 8, 2022.

Multiple treatments are available to attack bone cancer, though the stage and location of the disease dictates which may be recommended. After a host of testing and a thorough evaluation, a multidisciplinary team of bone cancer experts will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Types of treatment for bone cancer

A patient’s individualized plan may include several types of treatment for bone cancer. The goal of bone cancer treatments is to:

The type of treatments recommended for bone cancer depends on:

  • How advanced the cancer is
  • The type of cancer
  • A patient's overall health

Options for bone cancer treatments may include any of those listed below.

Orthopedic oncology

Our orthopedic oncology program provides various orthopedic procedures for patients, including:

  • Soft tissue excisions and resections
  • Hip and joint replacement
  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Palliative surgery

They also address orthopedic problems that may occur during cancer treatment, such as osteoporosis or arthritis. Patients undergoing treatments for bone cancers may require additional services from the orthopedic oncology team, including:

  • Bone reconstruction
  • Limb mobility restoration
  • Enhancement of limb function
  • Management of pain

Surgery

Cancer surgery may be recommended to remove a bone cancer tumor. A biopsy of the tumor cells may also be taken to diagnose cancer. Surgery may be used to remove new tumors if the bone cancer has spread.

Many surgeries may be performed, depending on the location and extent of the tumor. An experienced orthopedic surgeon should perform the surgery to remove a bone tumor and take a biopsy.

Bone tumor surgery is especially difficult if the cancerous tissue is in the jaw, skull, spine or hip. Patients with cancers in these bones may need additional treatments. Surgery to remove bone cancer in an arm or a leg may be more straightforward. After surgery, patients may need to spend time in a rehabilitation program.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is cancer-killing medicine injected into the vein that is able to reach all body parts. Chemotherapy may be recommended to treat certain bone cancers, such as osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.

For other bone cancers, chemotherapy may be used when cancer has spread (metastasized) to other organs in the body or if other medicines aren’t working.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy delivers high-energy rays or particles into the region of the tumor, killing cancer cells. Bone tumors, often surrounded by sensitive tissues like nerves and blood vessels, may be challenging and complicated to treat.

Sophisticated radiation therapy delivery systems help our radiation oncologists target difficult-to-reach bone tumors. For bone cancers, radiation therapy may be used:

  • As a main treatment for Ewing sarcomas
  • To treat a fibrosarcoma that returns after surgery
  • To prevent recurrence after tumor-removal surgery if some cancer cells are left behind
  • To slow the growth of tumors and reduce symptoms of bone cancers that surgery can’t remove

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy for bone cancer is used to treat tumors that have undergone specific genetic changes. With this therapy, drugs attach to proteins, receptors or gene mutations found only on specific types of cancer cells. These targeted therapies block the signals that make the bone cancer cells grow.

Targeted therapy drugs may be used alone, or in combination with chemotherapy or other treatments to help anti-cancer drugs better identify and attack cancer cells. Targeted therapies are beneficial for cancers like chordomas that spread or recur after treatment with chemotherapy or advanced chondrosarcomas.

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