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Bone Cancer

  • Overview

    Bone cancer diagnosis
    UK Markey Cancer Center orthopaedic oncologist Patrick O'Donnell, MD. 

    Bone cancer develops when the cells in one of your bones start to grow out of control. If the cancer starts in your bones, it’s called a primary bone cancer or a bone sarcoma. If it starts in your blood, bone marrow or elsewhere in your body, it’s called a secondary bone cancer.

    Bone Cancer at UK Markey Cancer Center

    The UK Markey Cancer Center is proud to be one of only two programs treating bone cancer in Kentucky. The Bone Oncology team treats both pediatric and adult patients with bone and soft tissue tumors along with tumor-like conditions affecting the bone system.

    In addition to clinical care, this unique team of physicians and researchers is pursuing research in cancer immunotherapy, advanced tumor imaging, biomedical engineering of sarcoma-like substances and clinical trials — all dedicated toward improved patient-centered care.

    Each patient is cared for by specialists who meet regularly to discuss individual patient cases and treatment plans. This multidisciplinary team will work with you and your doctor to coordinate a care plan designed to offer the best outcomes.

    Markey is proud to be the only cancer center in Kentucky designated by the National Cancer Institute. Since 2017, Markey Cancer Center has been nationally recognized as a top 50 cancer center by U.S. News & World Report.


    Bone cancer can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

    • Bone fractures
    • A lump or swelling
    • Numbness or tingling
    • Pain in the area of the tumor

    Survival Rates

    For all cases among adults and children, the five-year survival rate for bone cancer patients is about 70 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.


    You can lower your risk of cancer by taking steps to build a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways you can lower your risk for this disease, as well as improve your overall basic health:

    • Avoid using tobacco products. Tobacco has been tied to multiple cancers, and it is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
    • Stay physically active. Your physical activity is related to risk for colon and breast cancer. Excess weight gained from inactivity increases the risk of multiple cancers.
    • Limit alcohol consumption. It is important to be mindful of how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, can increase the risk for colon, breast, esophageal and oropharyngeal cancer.
    • Learn about screenings. Your primary care doctor can recommend appropriate cancer screenings based on your age, personal risk and family history.

    Risk Factors

    • Age. Some types of bone cancers are more common in young people, while others tend to develop as we get older.
    • Benign tumors. The presence of non-cancerous tumors can raise the risk of chondrosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.
    • Paget disease. This benign condition, most common in the elderly, poses a slight risk of developing tumors in the area of a fractured bone.
    • Radiation therapy. People who have gotten radiation therapy, usually for another kind of cancer, have a slight risk of developing bone cancer in the treatment area. The risk is higher in people treated as children and those treated with higher radiation doses.

    Your First Visit/What to Expect

    • For your first visit, you will be directed to the multidisciplinary clinic in the Whitney-Hendrickson Building.
    • You can register at the front desk or registration area, where a Markey team member will help guide you through your appointment.
    • Several parking options are available to patients of Markey Cancer Center.
    • Please remember to bring your patient packet with the completed forms. These items will help your doctor learn more about your case and determine the best plan for your care.
    • To meet our patient needs, UK HealthCare accepts many forms of insurance.  

    Clinical Trials

    Clinical trials are research studies aimed at evaluating medical, surgical or behavioral interventions to determine if a new treatment is safe and effective.

    At the UK Markey Cancer Center, we are advancing care and research to prevent, detect and treat cancer – one patient at a time. As a patient at Markey, you have a team of people looking at your individual case, applying the most recent cancer knowledge to give you the best chance of survival.

    Markey has more open clinical trials than any other cancer center in the region, giving you access to some of the most advanced options available. Learn more about ongoing clinical trials for treating bone cancer.

  • Diagnosis

    If your health care provider believes you may have bone cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

    Your provider will also give you a physical exam. You may have one or more of the tests outlined here.

    Imaging Tests

    • Computer tomography (CT) scan. CT scans are most useful for detecting the stage of the cancer being diagnosed. The scan’s results tell your doctor if the cancer has spread to your lungs, liver or other organs.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Typically, MRI scans are the best test for outlining a bone tumor and are also helpful for looking at the brain and spinal cord. MRI scans take longer than CT scans — usually around an hour.
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. PET scans are useful for examining cancer throughout your body and can help determine the current stage of the cancer. PET is sometimes used in conjunction with a CT scan to better pinpoint the cancer in question.
    • X-ray. An X-ray image of your bone at the site of the cancer may reveal abnormalities that your health care providers are searching for.


    A biopsy removes tissue or cells to be checked by a pathologist under a microscope. Results from a biopsy help determine if abnormal cells are cancer. Your doctor may perform this procedure in a variety of ways, including bronchoscopy, mediastinoscopy or needle biopsy. Ask your provider about your specific type of biopsy to learn more.

    Test Results

    Patients will be contacted after a biopsy by a Markey team member to review results. Further management will be recommended at that time.

    Second Opinions

    When you are diagnosed with bone cancer, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases, there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

    Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent bone cancer, with a focus on individualized patient care.

    Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers, according to U.S. News & World Report. As the one and only NCI-designated cancer program in Kentucky, Markey is able to serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including bone cancer.

    Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

    Should I get a second opinion?

    A second opinion can help to ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating bone cancer. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

    • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis.
    • A dedicated team specialized in your cancer type may not be available in your area.
    • There may be uncertainty around the stage of bone cancer.
    • You may want to learn more about treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey.
    • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment.

    Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

    After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here are a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

    • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
    • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
    • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
    • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don't have the treatment?
    • What are the side effects of treatment?
    • How long are treatment recovery periods?


    Additional Resources

    For more information, visit these trusted national sources for a variety of additional educational tools and resources:

  • Treatment

    Outstanding cancer care requires an unparalleled team. Our specialists in medical oncology, chemotherapy, radiation medicine, pathology and orthopaedics all work and consult together to deliver you the most effective treatments.


    Aside from surgery, chemotherapy is one of the longest used and most common treatments for cancer. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with cancer cells’ ability to grow and reproduce. For some types of cancer, chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments such as radiation or surgery. A combination of chemotherapy medicines is typically used to fight a specific cancer.

    While chemotherapy can be quite effective in treating certain cancers, the medicines reach all parts of the body, not just the cancer cells. Treatment can result in many side effects. Being prepared for these side effects can help you and your caregivers manage them effectively.

    Chemotherapy can be given in various ways, such as:

    • A pill to swallow
    • An injection directly into a body cavity
    • An injection (shot) into the muscle or fat tissue
    • Directly into the bloodstream or intravenously (also called an IV)
    • Topically (applied to the skin)

    Read more about Chemotherapy at UK Markey Cancer Center.

    Radiation Therapy

    Radiation therapy is a treatment for cancer that uses high-energy X-rays. A machine directs the rays of energy to the area of cancer, with a goal to kill or shrink cancer cells. Learn more about Radiation Oncology at UK Markey Cancer Center.


    The primary treatment for bone cancer is surgery. The main goal of this procedure is to completely remove the cancer, as even a few cancer cells left behind can grow and multiply to create a new tumor. To be sure that all cancer cells are gone, surgeons typically perform a wide excision, a procedure to remove the tumor plus some healthy surrounding tissue. A wide excision with no cancer detected on the remaining edges of tissues, also known as a clean margin, minimizes the risk that the cancer will return.

  • Follow-up Care

    When their initial treatment is completed, patients are referred to Markey's survivorship clinic. The survivorship clinic is designed to connect a patient's medical history with their future quality of life after treatment is over.

    During a meeting with a nurse practitioner, patients will review their survivorship care plan. This includes:

    • A treatment summary
    • A list of integrative medicine services at Markey
    • An overview of immunizations and suggested cancer screenings based on the patient's age

    Ask your nurse practitioner for more information on diet, exercise and other daily activities following your initial treatment.

    Dietitians and patient navigators are available as needed to help patients identify important aspects of their continuing health care, including long-term or late effects of treatment, diet and smoking cessation. Financial counselors and social workers who specialize in caring for cancer patients can also provide support. 

    Patients also receive a personalized care plan, in line with national best practices for ongoing survivorship care. They are referred to a primary care provider if they don’t already have one.

    For more information on the survivorship clinic for bone cancer, please contact your care team.

  • Resources

    There is no shortage of great information and helpful services to get you through your cancer treatment and recovery. The problem: it can be a challenge to find the right resources. That's where we come in. UK Markey Cancer Center Support Services helps connect you to those resources that are reliable and used often by our patients and staff. Browse a partial list of our go-to local and national resources below.

    To ensure all your needs are met appropriately, we suggest that you speak to a member of our team who can help you find exactly the support you're looking for. Email us at

    Genetic Counseling

    A key component of our mission to provide advanced patient care and leading-edge research is the Genetic Counseling Program. The program provides risk assessment for individuals with a strong family history of cancer. Individuals who are predisposed to cancer can review clinical management options for themselves and potentially at-risk family members.

    Our genetic counselor provides patients with a personalized assessment of hereditary cancer risks. They discuss options for detecting cancer and reducing risks. Patients' concerns are addressed with sensitivity and support. Genetic testing is offered when appropriate, and the patient returns to the referring physician for any necessary follow-up care.

    Support Services

    At the UK Markey Cancer Center, we do more than just treat disease. We care for the individual. We have an experienced team of licensed clinical social workers, registered dietitians, integrative medicine clinicians and others who will work with you. They will tailor our services to meet your needs as you and your family navigate the challenges of illness and medical treatment.

    Remember: cancer does not define you, and life goes on despite a diagnosis. We want to help you continue to face each new day with strength, confidence and peace of mind. Look at our support services below to learn more.

    • Send an e-greeting. Send email greetings to a friend or loved one currently hospitalized at UK Chandler Hospital, Markey Cancer Center or Kentucky Children's Hospital. 
    • Financial Counseling. Patient advocates assist patients with billing questions and payment collection. They also screen patients for financial assistance programs and federal disability programs.
    • Integrative Medicine & Health. The UK Integrative Medicine & Health program uses a combination of traditional and complementary medical therapies and practices. These include aromatherapy and other services to treat the whole person — body, mind and spirit.
    • Nutrition Counseling. Markey registered dietitians specialize in providing nutritional support to cancer patients. They help patients manage the nutrition-related side effects of treatment, including decreased appetite, weight loss, taste changes and nausea.
    • Oncology Social Work. In addition to providing emotional support and counseling, oncology social workers help guide patients to various cancer-specific and community resources. They can assist with temporary lodging and transportation assistance during your treatment.
    • Oncology Rehabilitation Program. The Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) Oncology Rehabilitation Program offers specialized medical care for cancer patients. They can help patients who hope to improve their general well-being by managing physical impairments, overseeing personalized rehabilitation programs and providing medical follow-up for these issues.
    • Support Resources. Markey helps connect cancer patients with organizations providing products and accessories, including head coverings, prosthetics and more.
    • Support Groups. Support groups educate patients and families about cancer and its treatment. They allow patients to share their experiences and get tips on coping with the emotional and physical challenges of disease.


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