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​Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer)

Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that usually develops in the osteoblast cells that form bone. Bone cancer most often occurs in the long bones that make up the arms and legs, though it can occur in any bone.

Learn about the treatment options for Osteosarcoma at the UPMC Pituitary Center of Excellence.

Contact the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery

To make an appointment or learn more:

What is Osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma is the most common primary bone cancer. Cancer may form in the bone or spread to the bone from another site in the body.

When cancer starts in bone tissue, it is called primary bone cancer. When cancer cells travel to the bone from elsewhere, it is called secondary or metastatic bone cancer.

Symptoms of osteosarcoma can include deep bone pain, swelling or lumps, and fatigue.

At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for osteosarcoma of the skull base is the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This innovative, minimally invasive technique uses the nose and nasal cavities as natural corridors to access hard-to-reach or previously inoperable tumors. Benefits of EEA include:

  • No incisions to heal
  • No disfigurement
  • Faster recovery time

Diagnosing Osteosarcoma

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about any symptoms you are experiencing.

Symptoms of osteosarcoma

Symptoms may include:

  • Deep bone pain that wakes you up
  • Swelling or a lump where the tumor is
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fevers or night sweats

Testing for osteosarcoma

Your doctor also will want to run various tests to confirm the diagnosis of osteosarcoma.

Those tests will include:

  • Blood tests to check the level of the enzyme alkaline phosphatase (an increased amount of this enzyme is released in patients with bone tumors)
  • X-ray
  • Bone, CT, and MRI scans
  • Biopsy

The sooner osteosarcoma is found and treated, the more favorable the outcome. Once the tumor is found, staging tests are performed to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent.

Osteosarcoma Treatments

Treatment depends on:

  • Type and stage of cancer
  • Location of cancer
  • Your overall health

UPMC's neurosurgical team may recommend a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches to treat osteosarcoma.

Minimally invasive surgery

Surgery for osteosarcomas involves the removal of the cancerous tumor and nearby tissues.

Osteosarcomas of the skull base may be approached directly using Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This state-of-the-art, minimally invasive treatment approach allows surgeons to access the tumor through the natural corridor of the nose, without making an open incision. Surgeons then remove the osteosarcoma through the nose and nasal cavities.

EEA offers the benefits of no incisions to heal, no disfigurement, and a faster recovery time.

If you need complementary treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, those therapies can begin soon after EEA surgery.

At UPMC, we look at your condition from every direction to find the treatment path that is least disruptive to your brain, critical nerves, and your ability to return to normal functioning. We aim to maximize the benefits of surgery while minimizing risks.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy

If the osteosarcoma is large, aggressive, or the risk of spread is high, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be added. This will help prevent a recurrence at the site of surgery and also prevent spread to other organs.

Chemotherapy given before and after surgery will often cure osteosarcoma.

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