Bone cancer: Survival rate, causes, types, and treatment

Bone cancer describes a malignant tumor of the bone that destroys healthy bone tissue.

Bone cancer is divided into primary and secondary bone cancer: primary bone cancer forms in the cells of the bone and secondary bone cancer starts elsewhere, eventually spreading to bones.

In this article, we will discuss the survival rates, types, causes, symptoms, and treatments for bone cancer.

Fast facts on bone cancer:

Benign bone tumors are more common than malignant bone tumors.

There are a number of different bone cancer types.

Early symptoms might include pain in the affected area.

A range of diagnostic tests can help diagnose bone cancer.

Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery can all be used to treat bone cancer.


The type of treatment for bone cancer depends on several factors, including:

the type of bone cancer

where it is located

how aggressive it is

whether it is localized or has spread

There are three approaches to treating bone cancer. These are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.


Surgery aims to remove the tumor and some of the bone tissue that surrounds it. If some of the cancer is left behind, it may continue to grow and eventually spread.

Limb-sparing surgery, also known as limb salvage surgery, means that surgical intervention occurs without having to amputate the limb. The surgeon may take some bone from another part of the body to replace lost bone, or an artificial bone may be fitted.

In some cases, however, amputation of a limb may be necessary.

Radiation therapy

radiation machine
Radiotherapy, machine pictured here, is commonly used for treating bone cancer and other forms of cancer.

Radiotherapy is commonly used in the treatment of many cancer types. It involves the use of high-energy X-rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. Radiotherapy works by damaging the DNA inside the tumor cells, preventing them from reproducing.

Radiotherapy can be used to:

cure the patient by completely destroying the tumor.

relieve pain in more advanced cancers.

shrink the tumor, making it easier to then surgically remove it.

eliminate the cancer cells that remained behind after surgery.

Combination therapy is radiotherapy combined with another type of therapy. This may be more effective in some cases.

Chemoradiation, or radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy, may also be used.


Chemotherapy involves the use of chemicals to treat disease. More specifically, it refers to the destruction of cancer cells. Chemotherapy has five possible goals:

Total remission: Chemotherapy aims to cure the patient. In some cases, chemotherapy alone can get rid of the cancer completely.

Combination therapy: Chemotherapy can help other therapies, such as radiotherapy or surgery, produce better results.

Delay or prevent recurrence: Chemotherapy, when used to prevent the return of cancer, is most often used after a tumor has been removed surgically.

Slow down cancer progression: Chemotherapy can slow down the advancement of the cancer.

Chemotherapy may also help to relieve symptoms; this is more frequently used for patients with advanced cancer.


Bone cancer is staged dependent on how advanced it is:

Stage 1: The cancer has not spread from the bone. The cancer is not aggressive.

Stage 2: This is the same as stage 1 but more aggressive.

Stage 3: Tumors exist in at least two places in the same bone.

Stage 4: The cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

The stage of the cancer will dictate how it is treated and the likelihood of survival.

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