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Types of Surgery for Primary Bone Cancer

Three surgeons in surgery suite

Surgery is the main treatment for most bone cancers. The type of surgery you have depends on your health and the stage and location of the tumor. Your doctor will try to remove the tumor without harming your appearance or limb function.

In the past, the main way to treat bone cancer was to remove the whole limb. This surgery is called "amputation."  Now, most tumors can be completely removed and the bone rebuilt. This is usually called "limb-sparing surgery." Sometimes, removing a tumor from an arm or leg affects how it works after surgery. The limb can be rebuilt with a bone graft, a metal prosthesis, or a combination of the two. These are complicated surgeries and often require a team of doctors who bring their expertise and experience together to provide the best care. This kind of surgery may not be available at all centers. Removing tumors in the pelvic (hip) bone is particularly difficult. Sometimes, additional surgeries are required in the years following the initial surgery.

You may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both to shrink the tumor before limb-sparing surgery. Even with these treatments, you may need an amputation, but surgeons can usually perform limb-sparing surgery. If you have chemotherapy, the treatment may take several months. Your body will need time to rest after your treatment, before doctors can perform surgery. 

If you require an amputation, you will be fitted with an artificial limb called a "prosthesis," once your skin heals after surgery. You may still look forward to a high quality of life. In fact, many people who have amputations can be just as active as people who undergo limb-sparing operations.


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