Radiotherapy for bone cancer

Radiotherapy treats cancer by using high-energy rays that destroy the cancer cells while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.

Radiotherapy works well for Ewing’s sarcoma and is often given together with chemotherapy and surgery. If it’s not possible to have surgery to remove the tumour, radiotherapy may be used as the main treatment.

If the tumour is in your spine or pelvis, radiotherapy may be used if your doctor thinks surgery to the area might cause a disability. Sometimes before the start of radiotherapy to the pelvis, the surgeon will carry out an operation to put a water-filled balloon into the pelvis. The balloon moves the organs in the pelvis out of the way of the radiotherapy beam. This protects them from any damage the radiotherapy may cause.

Radiotherapy isn’t often used to treat osteosarcoma, spindle cell sarcoma or chondrosarcoma, because these types of bone cancer are not very sensitive to radiation. However, radiotherapy may sometimes be used instead of surgery, if surgery isn’t advisable. Occasionally, radiotherapy may be given after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that remain in the surrounding tissues, or to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back.

Back to Radiotherapy explained

Possible side effects

There are things you can do to help manage the possible side effects of radiotherapy treatment.

Before your radiotherapy

Before you start radiotherapy, your team will explain what your treatment involves and how it may affect you.

Your radiotherapy team

You will meet many different specialists from your radiotherapy team. You may see them before, during and after radiotherapy treatment.