Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The treatment options for your bone cancer are based on the type of cancer you have, the stage of the cancer, your overall health and your preferences. Bone cancer treatment typically involves surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of treatments.

Surgery

The goal of surgery is to remove the entire bone cancer. To accomplish this, doctors remove the tumor and a small portion of healthy tissue that surrounds it. Types of surgery used to treat bone cancer include:

  • Surgery to remove a limb. Bone cancers that are large or located in a complicated point on the bone may require surgery to remove all or part of a limb (amputation). As other treatments have been developed, this procedure is becoming less common. You'll likely be fitted with an artificial limb after surgery and will go through training to learn to do everyday tasks using your new limb.
  • Surgery to remove the cancer, but spare the limb. If a bone cancer can be separated from nerves and other tissue, the surgeon may be able to remove the bone cancer and spare the limb. Since some of the bone is removed with the cancer, the surgeon replaces the lost bone with some bone from another area of your body or with a special metal prosthesis.
  • Surgery for cancer that doesn't affect the limbs. If bone cancer occurs in bones other than those of the arms and legs, surgeons may remove the bone and some surrounding tissue, such as in cancer that affects a rib, or may remove the cancer while preserving as much of the bone as possible, such as in cancer that affects the spine. Bone removed during surgery can be replaced with a piece of bone from another area of the body or with a special metal prosthesis.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of energy, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. During radiation therapy, you lie on a table while a special machine moves around you and aims the energy beams at precise points on your body.

Radiation therapy, typically given along with chemotherapy, is often used before an operation. This may increase the possibility that amputation won't be necessary.

Radiation therapy may also be used in people with bone cancer that can't be removed with surgery. After surgery, radiation therapy may be used to kill any cancer cells that may be left behind. For people with advanced bone cancer, radiation therapy may help control signs and symptoms, such as pain.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is most often given through a vein (intravenously). The chemotherapy medications travel throughout your body.

Chemotherapy alone or combined with radiation therapy is often used before surgery to shrink a bone cancer to a more manageable size that allows the surgeon to perform a limb-sparing surgery. Chemotherapy may also be used in people with bone cancer that has spread beyond the bone to other areas of the body.

Sep. 12, 2013