Treatment for bone cancer

Standard treatments

How is primary bone cancer treated?

Treatments for primary bone cancer can include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy

Surgery

This is the main treatment for primary bone cancer. Most surgeries are limb sparing. This means your surgeon will try to prevent removing your limb (leg or arm) as much as possible. Your tumour will be removed and replaced with a bone graft, metal fitting or an artificial joint.
Sometimes it is not possible to save your limb during surgery. It might need to be removed, which means an amputation. This might be a difficult time for you but a team of nurses and doctors will support you at this time. An artificial limb will be fitted at a later date.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your cancer. It can be given before surgery (neo-adjuvant therapy), after surgery or radiotherapy (adjuvant therapy) or together with radiotherapy. Some common drugs used to treat primary bone cancer are:

Please see our booklet called Understanding Chemotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more information. For more about drugs, see our information list of chemotherapy drugs.

Radiotherapy

This treatment uses high-energy rays to kill the cancer cells in your bone. It can be given before or after surgery, or instead of it, if surgery cannot be done. Please see our booklet Understanding Radiotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more information on radiotherapy.

Advanced Treatments

Advanced cancer is when cancer has spread to other parts of your body. It may be possible to keep the cancer under control by using surgery or chemotherapy. But it is unlikely that the cancer will be cured. Chemotherapy or radiotherapy can help to shrink the cancer and improve your symptoms. This is called palliative treatment.

Learn more about treatments

Side effects

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. Some treatments may cause symptoms like nausea (feeling sick), vomiting, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite or hair loss.
Many treatments cause you to feel very tired (fatigue). Before you have your treatment, your doctor will talk to you about any likely side-effects.

For more about side-effects, download any of the "Important cancer information booklets" listed on the right hand side of this page.

Learn more about side effects

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.

Learn more about clinical trials

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm