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Treating Osteosarcoma TOPICS

How is osteosarcoma treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

Great advances have been made in the treatment of osteosarcoma during the past few decades. In the 1960s the only treatment available was amputation, and only a small number of patients survived 2 years or more after diagnosis.

Since that time, doctors have found that chemotherapy given before and after surgery will cure many people with osteosarcoma. It can also allow some people who previously would have needed to have a limb amputated to have limb-sparing surgery instead.

Making treatment decisions

Once osteosarcoma is found and staged, the cancer care team will talk with you about treatment options. It’s important to be sure you understand your options. Ask your cancer care team questions. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “What should you ask the doctor about osteosarcoma?

Because osteosarcoma is rare, only doctors in major cancer centers have a lot of experience treating these cancers.

For children and teens, a team approach is recommended that includes the child’s pediatrician as well as children’s cancer specialists. Treatment is best done at a children’s cancer center. For adults with osteosarcoma, the treatment team typically includes the patient’s primary care doctor, as well as specialists at a major cancer center. Doctors on the treatment team might include:

  • An orthopedic surgeon (a surgeon who specializes in muscles and bones) who is experienced in treating bone tumors
  • A medical or pediatric oncologist (a doctor trained to treat cancer with chemotherapy and other drugs)
  • A radiation oncologist (a doctor trained to treat cancer with radiation therapy)
  • A pathologist (a doctor specializing in lab tests to diagnose and classify diseases)
  • A physiatrist (a doctor specializing in rehabilitation and physical therapy)

For both adults and children, the team will also include other doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals. For more information, see our document Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Understanding the Health Care System.

The types of treatment used for osteosarcomas include:

Most often, both chemotherapy and surgery are needed.

All of these treatments may have side effects, but many of them can be made less troublesome. Your medical team will help you take care of the side effects and can help you work closely with nutritionists, psychologists, social workers, and other professionals to understand and deal with medical problems, stress, and other issues related to the treatment.

Because many of these issues can be more complex for cancer in children and teens, many people will be involved in your child’s overall care. As a parent, taking care of a child with cancer can be a very big job. It’s important to remember that you will have a lot of help. It’s also important for you to know that the health professionals who treat children with osteosarcoma are using the experience and knowledge gained from many decades of studying the treatment of this disease.

The next few sections describe the types of treatment used for osteosarcomas. This is followed by a discussion of the most common treatment approaches based on the extent of the cancer.

Last Medical Review: 04/18/2014
Last Revised: 01/06/2015