Treatment guide

Diagnosis and Treatment of Bone Cancer

Human bones are made of a protein known as collagen and a mineral known as calcium phosphate. Bones are living tissue, and can hence grow and repair themselves.

The content has been reviewed for quality and accuracy to the best of our knowledge by Qunomedical and its Medical Board of Experts.

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Diagnosis and Treatment of Bone Cancer Quick Details


  • Patients who have been diagnosed with bone cancer.


  • The prognosis for bone cancer also depends largely on the type of cancer, when it was diagnosed, your age and your personal health status at that point in time. On average, the 5 year survival rate varies between 54% to 85%.


  • The surgery may take an hour or longer, depending on the type of surgery, and if an amputation has to be carried out - then the level of amputation will also decide the final duration of your surgery.

  • Chemotherapy is done is cycles, where you receive medication over the course of a few days and then let your body rest and recover. The duration of a cycle and the number of cycles you have to undergo depends on the medication you are receiving, the type of cancer you have, and the stage of cancer you are in. General factors such as your current age, health status and medical history also play a role.

  • Radiotherapy sessions last for a for a couple of minutes and are carried out 5 days a week, for a few weeks. The total duration depends, again on the cancer type and stage and other personal factors.


  • The general, as well as the specific risks associated with bone cancer surgery, are bleeding, infection, pain, necrosis and damage to the implant.

  • Radiotherapy side effects include: fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, changes in skin.

  • Complications of chemotherapy include hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fatigue, mouth sores.

Bone Cancer

Three main types of cells make up our bones:

  • Osteoclasts: Mainly responsible for bone reabsorption.

  • Osteoblasts: Important for protein synthesis that is vital for bone formation and also responsible for bone mineralization.

  • Osteocytes: These cells are in charge of locating or responding to physical pressures/changes on the bone, and sends out signals for repair and growth.

Main Types of Bone Cancer

  • Ewing sarcoma: This type of cancer occurs mostly in children.

  • Osteosarcoma: Most common type of bone cancer, and occurs often in arms and legs but can start in any bone.

  • Chondrosarcoma: This cancer type affects the bone cartilage, and occurs more commonly in adults.

  • Chordoma: This type of bone cancer affects the spinal cord, and occurs generally in older adults.

Causes and Symptoms of Bone Cancer

Causes and Risk Factors

The following risk factors increase your likelihood of being diagnosed with bone cancer:

  • Genetics: Mutations in specific genes cause conditions such as retinoblastoma (a form of eye cancer), osteochondromas (a non-cancerous growth found on the surface of bones) along with a familial history of bone cancer.

  • Previous radiation therapy: Radiation therapy for other cancers can increase the chance of you developing bone cancer in that area.

  • Other bone conditions: Paget’s disease and Fibrous dysplasia.


Following are the main symptoms of bone cancer:

  • Pain: The most common and earliest sign of bone cancer. It increases in intensity and duration as the disease progresses.

  • Swelling: The area surrounding the tumor may become inflamed.

  • Fractures: Tumor formation may cause the bone to become weaker, and increases the likelihood of getting a fracture.

  • Numbness/Tingling: If the tumor is putting pressure on nerves, you may experience numbness or tingling in that particular area.

  • Unexpected weight loss and fatigue.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis and Screening

In addition to a consultation where your oncologist will discuss your medical history and carry out a physical exam, here are some of the basic diagnostic tests you will/can undergo:

  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan

  • X-ray

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan

  • Bone scan

  • PET

  • Biopsy

How Is Bone Cancer Treated?


There are two main types of surgery for treating bone cancer: Limb sparing surgery - This surgery is recommended/performed when the cancer has not spread in the body. The surgeon removes the cancer and some surrounding tissue and spares the limb. The removed section is then filled in with a prosthesis or a bone graft. An amputation is performed when the cancer has metastasized, or limb sparing surgery was unsuccessful.


Uses anti-cancer drugs to kill or shrink the cancer causing cells and to prevent the spread of cancer to other areas of the body. Chemotherapy can be given before or after the surgery to shrink the tumor and to prevent the cancer from returning respectively. It is also given in combination with radiotherapy or as palliative care for late stage cancer. The specific chemotherapy drug or combination of drugs will be prescribed based on your individual case.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy drugs, are as the name suggested more specific, i.e, they harm cancer cells and do not have any adverse effects on surrounding or other cells of our body. As of now, targeted therapy drugs are used for bone cancers where chemotherapy might not have been successful.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy works by aiming high energy waves at the cancerous cells. This treatment, as chemotherapy, can be given before and/or after surgery and is also used for shrinking the tumor when surgery is not an option.

What Should I Expect From This Procedure?

Please bear in mind, that your medical history, your environment which includes family and friends, your lifestyle habits, genetics, the type and intensity of cancer you have, all play a role in deciding the course of your treatment. Many times a combination of treatments is recommended, and this may change through the duration of your illness. This is done so the doctor can ensure that you are getting the best possible treatment for your individual case.

How Do I Find the Right Doctor?

We understand that before going through a major treatment like surgery or radiotherapy, you may be feeling unsure and want a second opinion, or you would like to look for the top oncologist specializing in bone cancer, or for a clinical trial doing cutting edge research. For support with any of these queries and question, Qunomedical is here for you 24/7.


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