How is osteosarcoma treated?

The most common forms of treatment for osteosarcoma are:

  • Surgery: During surgery, the tumor and some of the healthy tissue around it are cut out of the affected bone. In most cases involving the arm or leg, surgery can be done without amputation. This is called limb-salvage surgery. These procedures may be possible in patients whose cancer has not spread beyond its original site. Sometimes, artificial implants or bone taken from another part of the body can be used to replace the bone that was removed during surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is given before surgery to shrink the tumor. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy and often takes about 3 months. Chemotherapy given after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells is called adjuvant chemotherapy. An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of patients who have cancer. An oncologist has expertise not only in prescribing the dose and schedule of these powerful drugs, but also in anticipating and reducing side effects of cancer therapy.
  • Radiation therapy: This is important in osteosarcoma involving the spine, sacrum, skull, face, and ribs. For osteosarcoma, a tumor that makes bone, some patients are treated with bone-seeking radiopharmaceuticals (samarium or radium) that are taken up by the bone-forming osteosarcoma cancer cells.

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