Dr. Templeton explains how bone cancer is treated.
It all depends on what type of bone cancer someone has. If it is a secondary type of bone cancer where the cancer started somewhere else and gone to the bone, again, otherwise known as metastasis, treatment really depends on where the cancer started from because that’s going to be the thing that is going to be the most risky as far as tumor showing up somewhere else and potentially being a life-threatening condition.
And so, once the diagnosis is made on a biopsy and you can confirm through other x-ray tests, typically CAT scans, where the cancer started from, there’s usually referral to a medical oncologist to look at additional modes of treatment, typically consisting of chemotherapy to get the primary tumor under control or get the cancer under control where it started from.
As far as the metastasis, or the secondary bone cancer itself, if it has weakened the bone enough that the bone is at risk of breaking then surgery may be recommended to help stabilize the bone or strengthen it so it’s less likely to break.
If it is a primary bone cancer, so a cancer that actually started off in the bone, once a diagnosis is made, again, additional x-ray studies just to see if the cancer has spread anywhere else; typically we are looking at lungs and looking at other bones.
The next step for that depends on what type of bone cancer it is. For the most common types that we see, and again, those are mostly in children, you are usually looking at chemotherapy. So medication first, followed by surgery, occasionally radiation, again, depending on what type of bone cancer it is.
If it is a primary bone cancer in an adult, again, it depends on what type of cancer it is. That’s frequently surgical intervention or actually cutting out the cancer and trying to put things back together, potentially chemotherapy again, depending on what type of cancer it is.
When you are looking at surgery for the primary bone cancers, whether it is in a child or an adult, there are a couple of ways to go. One is amputation. That’s always an option, but not everybody needs an amputation. So patients frequently will come in concerned that they are going to lose an arm or a leg. It may be if the cancer is that far advanced, but there are other things to do. There’s a thing called limb salvage where you actually take out that piece of bone where the cancer is, and then there are many, many ways to try to put things back together.
About Dr. Kim Templeton, M.D.:
Kim Templeton, M.D., received her degree from the University of Missouri School of Medicine with a specialty in orthopedics and musculoskeletal oncology and began her career with an orthopedic residency at Chicago's Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center.
She then accepted a Musculoskeletal Oncology Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In 1995, she came to the KU School of Medicine, where her commitment to excellence and orthopedic education has opened the way to positions of leadership. She is now the Director of the Orthopedic Residency Education Program at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, holds the first Joy McCann Professorship for Women in Medicine and Science, and currently serves as president of the KU Medical Center's Women in Medicine and Science program.