Bone Cancer Treatments
Bone cancer treatments at a glance
Treatment for bone cancer depends on the type and stage of cancer. It is common that a patient will need more than one type of treatment. Options include:
- Radiation therapy.
Bone cancer treatment options
Treatment for bone cancer will depend on the type, size, location and stage of the cancer, along with the patient’s overall health and preferences. The patient’s doctor will help navigate treatment options to decide on the best plan for each person.
Treatment options for bone cancer include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Anova Cancer Care utilizes CyberKnife when radiation therapy is called for to treat bone cancer. In addition, CyberKnife is an excellent adjunct treatment to accompany surgery.
Surgery is the most common treatment for bone cancer, with the goal being to remove the tumor and a small portion of healthy tissue that surrounds it. This is often performed by a surgical oncologist or orthopedic oncologist.
Types of surgeries for bone cancer include the following.
- Surgery for cancer that does not affect the limbs. This is when the cancer is not in the arms or legs. The surgeon can either remove all or part of the bone to remove the cancer while preserving as much bone as possible. When the section of bone is removed it can be replaced with a piece of bone from another part of the body, with a special metal prosthesis or with material from a bone bank.
- Surgery to remove the cancer but spare the limb. The surgeon will use this method when the cancer is in a limb but the tumor(s) can be separated from nerves and other tissue. Similar to a surgery that is done when a limb is not affected, after the tumor is removed the lost bone will be replaced with bone from another part of the body, with a special metal prosthesis or with material from a bone bank.
- Amputation surgery. At times the cancer has grown large enough or is located in such a complicated location that surgery is needed to remove the limb. After surgery, the patient will likely be fitted with an artificial limb. As other treatment options are developing, this surgery is becoming less common.
- Cryosurgery. It uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the cancerous cells.
Surgery for bone cancer carries the usual risks of any surgery such as infection, damage to tissue and organs, blood loss and reaction to anesthesia.
Chemotherapy, also known as chemo, uses chemicals to kill cancer cells and is given by a medical oncologist. Most commonly, chemo is given through a vein (IV) but can also be taken orally. Once taken it travels throughout the entire body and is not targeted at only the specific location of the bone cancer. Chemo can be used before surgery to shrink the tumor to make it easier to remove, or after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is a common treatment for people with osteosarcoma or Ewing’s sarcoma or in cases where the bone cancer has metastasized and spread beyond the bone to other areas of the body. Chemo cannot be used to treat chondrosarcoma.
Common side effects of chemotherapy include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Increased risk of infection
- Hair loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Mouth sores
- Bruising or bleeding.
These side effects usually go away once the patient is no longer being treated with chemotherapy.
CyberKnife radiation treatment for bone cancer
CyberKnife uses high-energy photon beams, the same as used in X-rays, to destroy the cancerous tissue in the bone while avoiding nearby healthy organs and tissues. CyberKnife targets the tumor with sub-millimeter accuracy, thereby sparing the healthy tissue around the tumor. The CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery machine allows doctors to directly target the cancerous cells with a high level of accuracy. Radiation oncologists will oversee this treatment option.
There are other forms of radiation therapy that use a linear accelerator, but they lack the intra-operative targeting of the tumor that CyberKnife provides.
With this targeted approach, a patient can receive a higher dose of treatment with fewer appointments. CyberKnife allows for high doses of radiation to kill the cancer cells while minimizing exposure to healthy tissue.
As with other radiation therapy options, CyberKnife can also be used to make the tumor easier to remove with surgery or to kill any cancer cells that were not removed with surgery.
CyberKnife treatment is delivered in one to five sessions and never requires a hospital stay.
Patients with chondrosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma or metastatic tumors often are treated with radiation therapy, as are patients whose tumor placement makes it difficult to remove all or part with surgery. Radiation therapy can also be used to relieve such symptoms as pain.
Radiation therapy can be given along with chemotherapy or can be used before or after surgery. Before surgery radiation therapy aims to make the tumor smaller and easier to remove and after surgery it can kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind.
Internal radiation involves radioactive material sealed inside a seed, pellet or capsule that is implanted in the body. (Anova Cancer Care doesn’t offer internal radiation therapy.)
Side effects from any kind of radiation therapy may include a mild skin reaction, fatigue, upset stomach or loose bowel movements. These side effects are significantly reduced or not present with CyberKnife use.