Surgery for primary bone cancer
Surgery is a very important part of treatment and is used to remove a tumour from the bone.
There have been major improvements in surgical treatments for bone cancer. In the past, it was often necessary to remove (amputate) the limb if cancer was found. But now, it’s usually possible just to remove the affected part of the bone and replace it with a specially designed metal fitting (endoprosthesis), or with a bone from another part of the body (bone graft). If the cancer affects a bone in or near a joint, the whole joint can often be replaced with an artificial one.
These operations, called limb-sparing surgery , have made it possible for many people to avoid amputation. They are only carried out in specialist hospitals, so your doctor should refer you to one of these hospitals to see whether this type of operation would be possible for you.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to avoid an amputation. Sometimes an amputation may be needed to ensure the cancer has been completely removed. It may also be necessary if your mobility would be better after an amputation than with limb-sparing surgery.
The type of surgery you have will depend on a number of factors. Your surgeon will discuss the different types of surgery in detail with you before any decision is made about your treatment.
Surgery if the bone cancer has spread to the lungs
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If a bone cancer spreads to the lungs it may still be possible to cure it with an operation to remove the part of the lung that’s affected. This operation is called a thoracotomy. It shouldn’t affect your breathing as it’s still possible to breathe properly if part of a lung, or even a whole lung, is removed.
When deciding whether this type of operation is possible, the surgeon will consider several factors including the type of primary bone cancer, the number of secondary cancers in the lungs, their size and where they are in the lungs. They will also take into account your age and general health, as this is a major operation. Sometimes a course of chemotherapy is given first. This can help shrink the secondary cancers and may make an operation possible.
Other treatments if surgery isn’t possible
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Occasionally it’s not possible to remove a bone tumour using surgery. This is more likely to happen if the tumour is in a bone deep within the body such as the pelvis, or in a bone that can’t be easily removed without causing serious disability, such as a bone in the spine. In these situations other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy will be used instead.