Orthopeadic tumor treatment addresses bone tumors – abnormal growths appearing in bone tissue, usually in the form of a lump or mass. They appear when cells – for reasons not yet fully understood – divide and grow in an irregular, uncontrolled way. When a tumor forms in a bone, it can begin taking the place of normal, healthy tissue, weakening the bone’s structure and making it more susceptible to fracture.
Most bone tumors are benign – in other words, not cancerous or life threatening. In some cases, a malignant, cancerous tumor arises, and its cells may be spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic systems. With either type of tumor (benign or malignant) your doctor may determine that the best course of treatment is tumor surgery, also known as excision of tumor.
Bone Tumor Diagnosis
A bone tumor can sometimes cause considerable discomfort and limit your use of the limb or joint affected. In some cases, a malignant bone tumor can be fatal, particularly if the cancer spreads to other parts of the body (metastasizes). If you have any reason to suspect that you have a bone tumor, you may in fact need tumor treatment – so it is very important that you seek immediate medical attention. In order to diagnose your condition, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and the symptoms you have been experiencing, and will also perform a physical exam. If it is uncertain whether a tumor is present, or if the character of a tumor is unknown, one of more of these tests can help answer these questions:
Nonsurgical Bone Tumor Treatment
If a bone tumor is found to be benign, your doctor may recommend that it simply be observed, without any active treatment. In many cases – particularly in children – such a tumor will simply disappear on its own.
If a tumor is determined to be cancerous, active tumor treatment is extremely important. The method or methods used depend upon the type and location of the tumor, and whether or not it has begun spreading to other parts of the body.
Non-surgical bone tumor treatments include radiation therapy (using powerful X-Rays to kill cancerous cells and shrink the tumor) and chemotherapy (use of cancer-killing medicines to kill tumor cells that have spread through the body).
Bone Tumor Surgery: Excision of Tumor
Since some types of benign tumors may eventually become malignant and spread, your doctor may recommend excision (surgical bone tumor removal). Excision of the tumor may also be advisable to lessen the risk of breaking a bone weakened by a tumor’s presence.
In most cases, malignant (cancerous) bone tumors must be removed through tumor surgery. Often surgery is in combination with radiation and chemical therapies, to lessen the risk of the cancer’s spread or return. Wherever possible, the approach taken is called limb salvage surgery. That is, only the cancerous tissue is removed, with the surrounding bone, muscles, nerves and blood vessels left intact. In some cases, bone that has been removed may be replaced by a metallic implant, or with transplanted bone tissue.
On occasion, when a malignant bone tumor has grown very large, and other nearby tissues are also affected (such as muscle or blood vessels), amputation is necessary to eliminate the cancerous tissues and safeguard the rest of the body.
Tumor Treatment and Tumor Surgery Research
Ongoing research in the field of genetics is providing new insights into the nature of bone tumors of all types, benign and malignant. These new understandings may open the door to innovations in tumor treatment.
Similarly, research in the area of medication and other treatment methods offers new approaches, and more combinations of surgical excision of tumors with other therapies.
Finally, where amputation cannot be avoided in order to save a patient’s life, new discoveries and technological advances now also offer better, more comfortable and natural prosthetics, allowing patients to return to more active, normal lives.
Because of the importance of all of these types of research, your doctor may wish to discuss the possibility of your participating in a clinical research trial, in connection with treatment of a bone tumor. Participation in such trials is always entirely voluntary; it may lead to a better outcome for you, and also for many others in the future.
The Rehabilitation Network of the North Shore-LIJ Health System is dedicated to providing you and your family with result-oriented, comprehensive rehabilitation services. Our goal is to help you and your loved ones find relief from pain and get moving again after an accident, illness, injury or surgery. We’re your partner in a safe, healthy, more rapid recovery.
The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Trauma Services in New York performs tumor surgery as well as a broad range of nonsurgical and surgical treatments for conditions that affect the bones.