Chemotherapy for primary bone cancer

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Cytotoxic means toxic to cells. These drugs disrupt the way cancer cells grow and divide but they also affect normal cells.

Chemotherapy is an important part of the treatment for most osteosarcomas, spindle cell sarcomas and Ewing’s sarcomas.

Chemotherapy is usually given before you have surgery or radiotherapy. When given before surgery, it can shrink the tumour and make it easier to remove. It can also reduce symptoms such as pain and reduce the chances of the cancer spreading.

If you have an osteosarcoma or Ewing’s sarcoma, you will also have chemotherapy after surgery or radiotherapy. This is to destroy any remaining cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of the body. It’s given because tiny amounts of cancer may be present, especially in the lungs, that are too small to be detected by a scan.

Before having chemotherapy you will have tests to check your hearing and how well your heart, liver and kidneys are working. The results take a few days. Your doctor will discuss them with you.

You may be offered chemotherapy as part of a clinical research trial. Clinical trials are important because they can help improve the way that bone cancer is treated. Your doctor or research nurse can discuss any relevant trials with you.