What is osteosarcoma?
Osteosarcoma is a type of cancerous tumor that grows on bone, which can grow very quickly and aggressively. It is the most common form of cancer that starts in bone tissue. Osteosarcoma occurs most often in children and young adults.
People with osteosarcoma often report pain and swelling in the area affected by the tumor, which is most often in bones of the thigh (femur), shin (tibia), upper arm (humerus), or areas aroudn the knee.
It is not clear what causes osteosarcoma, although it has been speculated that certain genetic mutations, conditions such as Paget’s disease that affect the bone tissue, or radiation therapy for unrelated conditions may increase the risk of developing osteosarcoma.
Our approach to osteosarcoma
When osteosarcoma is suspected, the health care provider will usually start with an X-ray, followed by a combination of scans such as CT scan, PET scan, bone scan, and MRI to examine the tissue. To confirm the diagnosis, the health care provider will need to conduct a surgical biopsy, a procedure through which a small piece of bone is removed to be viewed under a microscope.
Patients with osteosarcoma are often referred to an oncologist, a doctor who specializes in cancer care, as well as an specialized orthopedic oncologist who specializes in bone cancers. Current standard treatment is to use chemotherapy, in which medicine is given to attack the cancer cells.
If needed, this may be followed by surgery to remove the tumor. The main goals of surgery at this point are to remove the tumor while still preserving as much of the bone as possible. If surgery is needed, it will be followed by additional high dose chemotherapy to attack as many of the cancer cells as possible.