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Osteosarcoma – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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What is Osteosarcoma? Cells are the basic units of life. We are complex beings composed of nearly 30 trillion cells. When these cells begin to multiply abnormally fast, cancer develops.

But, what is a sarcoma? There are many types of cancer arising in different parts of the body. Sarcoma is the one originating in bones, muscles or soft tissues. So, osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that affects bones.

What is Osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that starts from the bone cells. It is also called osteogenic sarcoma. The cells that help in the formation of healthy bones start multiplying in an uncontrolled way, resulting in a tumor formation. Unlike the healthy cells, the affected cells are weak and cause fractures.  

Osteosarcoma most commonly affects the teenagers, followed by young adults and then children. Long bones found in your arms, forearms, thighs and legs are at higher risk than other parts.

  • In most cases, a tumor, a mass of rapidly dividing cells, first appears in the lower end of your thigh bone (femur) or the upper portion of the shinbone (tibia).
  • Another common site is the upper end of the humerus (arm bone) close to the shoulder.

Osteosarcoma can also affect other bones like the pelvis (hip bone), shoulder bones, jawbone, etc.


What are the symptoms of osteosarcoma?

Frequently observed signs and symptoms of osteosarcoma are:

  • Marked swelling near the bone
  • Pain in joints (where two or more bones meet) and bones
  • Fracturing/breaking/injury of bones due to no known cause

When to see a doctor?

If you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, we recommend you consult your doctor.


Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

What are the complications of osteosarcoma?

Complications of osteosarcoma are:

  • Metastasis of osteosarcoma

The cancer can spread all over the body and  cause difficulty in treatment and recovery. Lungs and other bones are the common sites of metastasis (spread of cancer) of osteosarcoma.

  • Limb amputation

Your surgeon will never want to amputate or adopt all extreme measures of treatment to save your limb.

What are the treatment options for osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, needs immediate surgical and radiation therapy. Doctors select the treatment options based on where the osteosarcoma has started, the size of cancer, the type and grade of the osteosarcoma, including whether the cancer has spread beyond the bone.

Treatment options include:

Surgical treatment

Surgical intervention depends upon the size of a tumor, its location and its stage of spread . There are three types of surgeries:

  1. Limb-sparing surgery: It involves complete removal of the tumor and does not involve amputation.
  2. Amputation: It is only required if a tumor has spread . Your doctor will let you know about prosthetic joints and limbs.
  3. Rotationplasty: This is a procedure performed to remove the lower portion of the leg . In this surgery, which is used sometimes for children who are still growing, the physician removes the cancer including surrounding area, as well as the knee joint. Then the foot and ankle are then, and the ankle functions as a knee. For lower leg and foot, a prosthesis is used.


Chemotherapy involves the use of cancer-killing drugs. Your doctor will recommend undergoing chemotherapy before surgery for osteosarcoma, that is, neoadjuvant therapy.

Chemotherapy before surgery will allow the doctors to examine the nature of the cancer cells. If the tumor shrinks, it will indicate limb-sparing surgery. Otherwise, it will suggest an aggressive treatment plan.

Radiation therapy

As the name suggests, radiation therapy uses X-rays and protons to kill and eradicate cancer cells.


Awareness of the cancer will make you confident about making decisions about the treatment and having  a fruitful  discussion with your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can osteosarcoma be prevented?

As of now, there are no known environmental causes and no known way to prevent osteosarcoma other than avoiding unnecessary radiation. Other bone diseases, like fibrous dysplasia and Paget’s disease of bone, and some inherited conditions, such as hereditary Bloom syndrome, retinoblastoma, Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome and Werner syndrome may pose risks for osteosarcoma.

What are the chances of full recovery from osteosarcoma?

Thanks to advances in chemotherapy and various surgical methods, chances of full recovery from osteosarcoma have significantly improved. Although, it does depend on the severity, location and size of a tumor.

Is chemotherapy linked with sterility?

In men, Busulfan is a chemo drug currently linked with the risk of infertility. Alkylating drugs in chemotherapy can also have a damaging effect on sperm count.

Verified By Dr Rajeev Reddy
MBBS, D Ortho, DNB Ortho, FOLS, FMO, FAGE, MNAMS, Consultant Orthopedic Oncosurgeon & Sarcoma Specialist Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad
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