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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Treatment

In most cases, an osteosarcoma is treated using a three-step approach that includes chemotherapy and surgery:

  • First, the patient is given chemotherapy to destroy as much of the tumor as possible before surgery.

  • Next, the patient has surgery. Whenever possible, the doctor removes the cancerous bone without amputating the limb. Gaps created when the cancer is removed are filled with a bone graft or a synthetic prosthesis. This helps the patient keep as much limb function as possible. If cancer has spread to the lung, it can be removed through surgery.

  • Finally, the patient receives a second course of chemotherapy after surgery.

Although most patients can be treated with limb-sparing surgery, this approach is not always possible. If the tumor has invaded critical blood vessels or part of a nearby joint, the limb may need to be amputated.

A newer approach involves giving the patient a combination of radiation and chemotherapy before limb-sparing surgery. This treatment seems to result in greater tumor shrinkage, possibly making the surgery more effective.

Given the rarity of osteosarcoma, it's best to seek care from medical experts who regularly treat the disease.

When to To Call a Professional

Call your doctor if you or a family member has persistent or unexplained pain and swelling in a bone or joint.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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