Bone Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What specialists treat bone cancer?

Bone cancer is typically managed by surgical oncologists or orthopedic oncologists (for surgical removal of the tumor) and medical oncologists (for administration or chemotherapy). Radiation oncologists are involved in the treatment team if radiation therapy is planned. Palliative care physicians may be involved to manage pain and symptoms.

Are there any treatments or medications that relieve bone cancer pain?

Analgesics (pain-relieving medications) treat the pain of bone cancer. These may be nonprescription or prescription medications. Mild-to-moderate pain is treated with medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Naprelan, Aleve, Naprosyn, Anaprox). However, people taking anticancer chemotherapy drugs sometimes must avoid NSAIDs because of increased risk of bleeding.

Prescription medications are used for moderate-to-severe cancer pain. Opioids -- stronger narcotic pain medications -- like codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl may be required to control severe pain. Sometimes a combination of medications is used to treat cancer pain. Opioid medications can be associated with side effects like drowsiness, constipation, and nausea.

What is the prognosis for bone cancer? What is the five-year survival rate for bone cancer?

The prognosis, or outlook, for survival for bone cancer patients depends upon the particular type of cancer and the extent to which it has spread. The overall five-year survival rate for all bone cancers in adults and children is about 70%. Chondrosarcomas in adults have an overall five-year survival rate of about 80%.

The five-year survival rate specifically for localized osteosarcomas is about 60%-80%. If the cancer has spread beyond bone, the survival rate is about 15%-30%. Osteosarcomas tend to have a more favorable prognosis if they are located in an arm or leg, respond well to chemotherapy, and are generally completely removed at surgery. Younger patients and females also tend to have a more favorable prognosis than males or older patients.

Ewing sarcomas have a five-year survival rate of about 70% when they are found in a localized stage. If they have spread outside of the bone, the survival rate drops to 15%-30%. Factors that are associated with a more favorable prognosis for Ewing sarcomas include smaller tumor size, age less than 10 years, having the cancer in an arm or leg (instead of in the pelvis or chest wall), and having a good response to chemotherapy drugs.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/12/2015

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