Bone Cancer Treatment

Bone cancer comes from a mutation on one of the bone cells to the point where it becomes cancerous. It includes primary bone cancer, which is the cancer that comes directly from the bony tissue, and secondary bone cancer, in which the cancer from another part of the body metastasizes to bone. Most types of cancer are secondary and have just settled into the bones form another site. Most people experience bony pain when they have bone cancer. This article will talk mainly about how to treat bone cancer.

Bone Cancer Treatment Options

There are different types of treatments for bone cancer you can have. The treatment you receive depends on the following:

  • The stage of cancer (whether or not it has spread)
  • The kind of bone cancer you have
  • Your general health, fitness level, and age
  • What your wishes are

Your doctor will discuss it with you. Here are some options:

1.   Surgery

Surgery is the most commonly-used treatment for bone cancer. If you have surgery, which one to choose depends on where it is located in your body, how big the cancer is, and whether or not it has spread to surrounding tissues.

  • ŸResection. You may have the bone cancer and some bone around it removed through surgery. This is known as a resection. This can be done in certain bones but not others, depending on whether it is a weight-bearing bone.
  • ŸLimb sparing surgery. This can be done in which the arm or leg is saved. A prosthetic device is put into place when the cancerous part of the bone is removed. It is called using an autograft when the bone comes from the same person, and an allograft when the bone comes from someone else. It is a complex surgery, requiring a skilled orthopedist at a specialty center.
  • ŸAmputation surgery. This is done when a bone graft is impossible or when the cancer is big and spreading. If the limb isn't amputated, it is likely to reoccur, which is why the limb is removed. An amputation is also necessary if the limb would be nonfunctional after removal of the cancerous part. After the amputation, the doctor usually fits you with a prosthetic limb that form-fits to your stump. You will work with specialists in order to learn how to use the prosthetic device well.
  • ŸWhen the cancer has spread. If you have a primary bone cancer that has gone to other tissues, it may be able to be removed through surgical methods. This is a good bone cancer treatment, even for metastatic disease. It is usually done when there aren't many metastatic tumors elsewhere in the body.

2.   Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy involves taking a drug that has the ability to kill cancerous cells. It is usually given intravenously and affects the entire body. Chemotherapy can also be used for people with bony cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

3.   Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy or "radiation therapy" involves using an intense beam of x-ray energy that goes to cancer cells and kills them. You need to lie still on a table while the radiation machine passes over the body in the area where the cancer cells are. It is usually given while taking chemotherapy and is often done before surgery in order to shrink the tumor and increase the chances of not having to have an amputation. It is a good bone cancer treatment for those who cannot have their cancer removed through surgical means. It can help control the pain and other symptoms of having bone cancer.

4.   Cryosurgery

This involves using a very cold substance, such as liquid nitrogen. It is applied to the cancer and freezes the cells until they are dead. This type of treatment can be used in place of regular surgery to get rid of the cancer.

5.   Targeted Therapy

These are relatively new treatment methods for bone cancer. It uses tiny molecules that act as blockers to the pathways the cancer cells need to multiply, thus stopping the growth of cancer. It is helpful in certain types of bony cancer, such as a chordoma, and not as helpful for others.

Possible Side Effects of Bone Cancer Treatment

There are side effects for all types of treatment for bone cancer. You may have leukopenia (low white blood cell count), which may increase your chances of having a serious infection under chemotherapy. You may also have excessive bleeding or become anemic. Most of the time, the side effects are self-limited but some can be lasting effects. It may alter the way your body feels, functions, or looks.

The kind of side effects that you will experience depends on the type of treatment you have and the location of the cancer in your body. Some people will have just a couple of side effects, while others will have more side effects. Prior to treatment, your healthcare providers will inform you as to the types of side effects that you might expect.

Prognosis After Treatment

The prognosis following bone cancer treatment, again, depends on what kind of cancer you are experiencing, the location of your bone cancer, your overall health, and the degree to which the cancer has metastasized. If a cancer has metastasized, the prognosis is often poorer than with localized bone cancer. Overall, the 5 year survival rate for bone cancer of all types in children and adults is about 70 percent, which means that 70 percent of bone cancer victims are still alive after five years.

The treatment may not work and this means that the cancer may come back. It can come back at the exact location it originated in or in other bony areas throughout the body. This means that, even after you have received cancer treatment, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, you need to follow up with your doctor in the years after treatment to check and ensure that the cancer has not come back. 

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