Bone Cancer (cont.)

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What are the side effects of treatment for bone cancer?

Unfortunately, there are risks and side effects with each of the treatments for bone cancer. The main risks associated with surgery include infection, recurrence of the cancer, and injury to the surrounding tissues. In order to remove the entire cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence, some surrounding normal tissue must also be removed. Depending on the location of the cancer, this may require the removal of portions of bone, muscle, nerves, or blood vessels. This could cause weakness, loss of sensation, and the risk of fracture of the remaining bone. You could be referred to a rehabilitation specialist for physical and occupational therapy after surgery to try to improve your strength and function.

Chemotherapy uses very powerful medication to try to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, some normal cells are also killed in the process. The medications are designed to kill rapidly dividing or growing cells. The normal cells that are affected often include hair, blood-forming cells, and cells lining the digestive system. Side effects include nausea and vomiting, loss of hair, infection, and fatigue. Fortunately, these side effects are better controlled today than they were in the past, but some may be unavoidable. The side effects usually resolve after the chemotherapy is over. Good nutrition is important for your body to fight the cancer. You may be referred to nutrition specialist to help with this, especially if you experience nausea and loss of appetite.

The main side effects from radiation therapy include fatigue, loss of appetite, and damage to the surrounding skin and soft tissues. Prior radiation therapy can also increase the risk of wound problems from surgery in the same area.

Children receiving treatment for bone cancer may have a higher risk of other cancer problems in the future including leukemia, and regular follow-up after treatment for bone cancer survivors is warranted.

What does the future hold for patients with bone cancer?

There has been much recent advancement in the understanding and treatment of bone cancer. These developments have led to more focused radiation therapy techniques to reduce the risk to surrounding tissues, better combinations of chemotherapy with less risk and side effects, and improved treatment options, including limb-salvaging surgery, that decrease the need for amputation.

Clinical trials investigating these new techniquesm as well as new types of treatment for bone cancer are ongoing. Patients with primary bone cancers should ask their doctors if they may be eligible to participate in such trials.

There is currently much work being conducted in each of these areas as well as investigations into the causes of cancer. It is hoped that a better understanding of the specific causes of cancer will lead to newer techniques to target specific cancer cells with limited risk to other normal cells.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/7/2014

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