Treating Osteosarcoma

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, and to weigh the benefits of each option against the possible risks and side effects.

Which doctors treat 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 who treats cancer with chemotherapy and other drugs)
  • A radiation oncologist (a doctor who treats 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 might also include other doctors, physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals. For more information, see Who Treats Children With Cancer? and Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care.

Which treatments are used for osteosarcoma?

The types of treatment used for osteosarcomas include:

Most often, chemotherapy is given both before and after surgery. It can help lower the risk that the cancer will come back after treatment. It might also allow for a less extensive operation to remove the cancer. Radiation therapy is used less often. To learn more about the most common treatment approaches for osteosarcoma, see Treatment Based on the Extent of the Osteosarcoma.

Making treatment decisions

The treatment for osteosarcoma is often effective, but it can also cause serious side effects. It’s important to discuss all treatment options as well as their possible side effects with the cancer care team so you can make an informed decision. It’s also very important to ask questions if you’re not sure about anything. You can find some good questions to ask in Questions to Ask the Doctor About Osteosarcoma.

The treatment team will also 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.

For cancer in children and teens, many of these issues can be more complex. 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. Many people will be involved in your child’s overall care. 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. To learn more about some of the unique issues that children and teens with cancer and their families might face, see When Your Child Has Cancer.

Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial

Today, most children and teens with cancer are treated at specialized children’s cancer centers. These centers offer the most up-to-date-treatment by conducting clinical trials (studies of promising new therapies). Children’s cancer centers often conduct many clinical trials at any one time, and in fact most children treated at these centers take part in a clinical trial as part of their treatment.

Adults with cancer also typically have the option to participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they might not be right for everyone. Talk to your treatment team to learn about possible clinical trials, and ask about the pros and cons of enrolling in one of them.

If you would like to learn more about clinical trials, start by asking the treatment team if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. See Clinical Trials to learn more. 

Considering complementary and alternative methods

You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that the treatment team hasn’t mentioned to treat the cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.

Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping people feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.

Be sure to talk to the cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See Complementary and Alternative Medicine to learn more.

Help getting through cancer treatment

The cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help. For children and teens with cancer and their families, other specialists can be an important part of care as well. For more information, see When Your Child Is Going Through Cancer Treatment.

The American Cancer Society also has programs and services that might be helpful. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.

The treatment information given here is not official policy of the American Cancer 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.