Questions to Ask About Bone Cancer

The information here focuses on primary bone cancers (cancers that start in bones) that most often are seen in adults. Information on Osteosarcoma, Ewing Tumors (Ewing sarcomas), and Bone Metastasis is covered separately.

It’s important to have honest, open discussions with your health care team. Ask any question, no matter how small it might seem. For instance, consider these questions:

Before getting a bone biopsy

  • How much experience do you have doing this type of biopsy
  • Are you part of a team that treats bone cancers?
  • What will happen during the biopsy?
  • How long will it take to get the results from the biopsy?

If bone cancer has been diagnosed

  • What type of bone cancer do I have?
  • Has the cancer spread outside the bone?
  • What is the stage of my cancer, and what does that mean?
  • Do you think the cancer can be resected (removed) completely?
  • Do I need any other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Will I need to see any other types of doctors?
  • How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
  • Who else will be part of the treatment team, and what do they do?

When deciding on a treatment plan

  • What are my treatment options?
  • What do you recommend and why?
  • (For tumors on an arm or leg) Which is the better surgical option: limb-sparing surgery or amputation? Why?
  • Are there any clinical trials we should consider? How can I find out more about them?
  • What’s the goal of treatment?
  • Should I get a second opinion? How do we do that? Can you recommend a doctor or cancer center?
  • How soon do I need to start treatment?
  • What should I do to be ready for treatment?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it be like? Where will it be done?
  • What risks or side effects are there to the treatments you suggest?
  • Which side effects start shortly after treatment, and which ones might develop later on?

During and after treatment

Once treatment begins, you’ll need to know what to expect and what to look for. Not all of these questions may apply to you, but getting answers to the ones that do may be helpful.

  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • Is there anything we can do to help manage side effects?
  • What symptoms or side effects should we tell you about right away?
  • How can I reach you or someone on your team on nights, weekends, or holidays?
  • Who can I talk to if I have questions about costs, insurance coverage, or social support? 
  • What are the chances of the cancer coming back with these treatment plans? What will our options be if this happens?
  • What type of follow up and rehab will I need after treatment?
  • Do you know of any local or online support groups where I can talk to others who have been through this?

Along with these sample questions, be sure to write down some of your own. For instance, you might want more information about recovery times so that you can plan your work schedule.

Keep in mind that doctors aren’t the only ones who can give you information. Other health care professionals, such as nurses and social workers, can answer some of your questions. To find more about speaking with your health care team, see The Doctor-Patient Relationship.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: June 17, 2021

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