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.
In some cases, it is necessary for an entire limb to be removed in order to perform a successful wide-excision. This procedure is known as an amputation.
Surgeons can remove the cancer without amputation in most cases. It is important to note that there are both advantages and disadvantages to either type of surgery, and your doctor will explain these to you.
Tumors in these areas will be treated with one of three surgeries:
- Amputation. This surgery removes part or all of a limb, meaning an arm or leg. Amputation treats cancer by removing the tumor, along with some healthy tissue surrounding it to ensure the tumor has been fully removed. In the past, it was the main way to treat tumors found in an arm or leg. Now it is only the best option if there is a reason not to do a limb-salvage surgery.
- Limb-salvage surgery. This surgery aims to remove the tumor while leaving a working limb intact. In this type of surgery, a wide-excision is done to remove the tumor, while a bone graft is used to replace the bone that is lost. Over 90 percent of bone cancer patients needing treatment in a limb are able to spare it, according to the American Cancer Society.
- Reconstructive surgery. This surgery allows joints to remain attached following a partial amputation using a prosthesis.