Staging & Detection Tests
Once a cancer has been diagnosed, it is very important to know where the cancer may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.
Tests that may be used include:
- Blood test – An analysis of a sample of blood. The doctor may look at the level of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. Sometimes it can indicate that a disease or tumor is present.
- Biopsy – This is a procedure to remove cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
Types of scans and procedures include:
- Angiogram – An X-ray of blood vessels. The patient is injected with dye to outline the vessels on an X-ray.
- Bone scan – A technique to create images of bones on a computer screen or on film. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and collects in the bones, enabling them to be shown on the scanner.
- CT scan (computed tomography) – An X-ray procedure that creates detailed, highly accurate cross-sectional body images.
- PET scan (positron emission tomography) – An imaging test used to highlight cancer in different parts of the body. A short-lived radioactive substance is injected prior to the scan. Cancerous tissue absorbs more of the substance, and appears to be brighter than normal tissue on the PET images. Other non-cancerous tissues, such as areas of inflammation, may also “light up.”
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)– An imaging technique that provides detailed images of body structures. It uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays used in a CT scan.
- X-ray – A type of high-energy radiation used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body. They can show the location, size and shape of a bone tumor.
Treatments & Therapies
Treatment for bone cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, embolization, radiation or even new immunotherapy to treat or control your cancer.
Surgery is usually the main treatment for primary bone cancer. Most of the time, the surgery is limb-sparing, in which the tumor is removed and the bone is reinforced with metal plates and screws, cement or allograft (donor bone). In more advanced cases, when no other options are available, an entire part of a limb is removed through amputation and replaced with a prosthesis.
Radiation Therapy (“Radiotherapy”)
Radiation therapy involves using X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, it is combined with chemotherapy (this is called “chemo-radiotherapy”).
Chemotherapy involves using drugs that slow down, damage or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs - or combinations of drugs - taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects. Embolization All tumors need a rich supply of blood to grow, and embolization is a procedure that closes one or more blood vessels that may be feeding a tumor. The goal is to shrink or slow the tumor’s growth. Sometimes embolization is combined with chemotherapy.
Your medical team may also recommend that you participate in a clinical trial. The University of Colorado Hospital conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs, and may afford those who qualify for the trial with drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.
One type of treatment currently in clinical trials is biologic therapy (biotherapy or immunotherapy). This approach uses the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer.