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. Different bone cancers respond to different treatments, and your doctors can help guide you in what is best for your cancer. For example, some bone cancers are treated with just surgery; some with surgery and chemotherapy; and some with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The goal of surgery is to remove the entire cancerous tumor. In most cases, this involves special techniques to remove the tumor in one single piece, along with a small portion of healthy tissue that surrounds it. The surgeon replaces the lost bone with some bone from another area of your body, with material from a bone bank or with a replacement made of metal and hard plastic.
Bone cancers that are very 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, amputation is becoming less common. If amputation is needed, you'll likely be fitted with an artificial limb and go through training to learn to do everyday tasks using your new limb.
Chemotherapy uses strong anti-cancer drugs, usually delivered through a vein (intravenously), to kill cancer cells. However, this type of treatment works better for some forms of bone cancer than for others. For example, chemotherapy is generally not very effective for chondrosarcoma, but it's an important part of treatment for osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.
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 is often used before an operation because it can shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove. This, in turn, can help reduce the likelihood that amputation will 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.