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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 4, 2023.

What is osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma is cancer that starts in a bone. Osteosarcoma is commonly found inside the long bones of your body, such as your arm or leg bones. It may also grow on the surface of your bones or in soft tissue, such as muscles.

What increases my risk for osteosarcoma?

The cause of your osteosarcoma may not be known. The following may increase your risk:

  • Bone diseases, such as Paget disease and fibrous dysplasia
  • Chemicals, such as beryllium oxide
  • Other cancer types, such as a retinoblastoma
  • Radiation exposure

What are the signs and symptoms of osteosarcoma?

  • Pain with movement
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness and trouble moving your limb
  • A lump that you can see or feel
  • Red, warm, and swollen skin around the area of your tumor
  • Swollen blood vessels that may bulge under your skin
  • Weak or damaged bones

How is osteosarcoma diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will measure the size, location, and shape of your tumor. Your provider may move your limb to see if your tumor changes with the movement. Your provider may feel your tumor to check if it is hard or soft, or painful when touched. Your provider will check to see if the tumor has spread to other areas. You may need any of the following:

  • A bone scan is a test that shows the tumor and other damage to the bone. A radioactive liquid, called a tracer, is given through an IV. The tracer collects in your bones so problems show up better on the monitor.
  • An x-ray may be used to check the size of your tumor, or to check for a bone fracture.
  • A CT or MRI may show if the tumor affects other blood vessels, nerves, and tissues around it. You may be given contrast liquid before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the bone and tumor better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A bone biopsy is used to take a sample of your bone to confirm the cancer.

How is osteosarcoma treated?

  • Chemotherapy (chemo) is medicine used to treat cancer. Chemo works by killing cancer cells.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove your tumor. The bones and tissues around your tumor may also need to be removed.
  • Radiation is a treatment that uses x-rays or gamma rays to kill cancer cells. You may need this treatment if your tumor cannot be removed through surgery. You may also need radiation along with chemo or surgery to treat your cancer.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to manage my osteosarcoma?

  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk for new or returning cancer. Smoking can also delay healing after treatment. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol as directed. Limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day if you are a man. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day if you are a woman. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
  • Go to physical or occupational therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
    Healthy Foods
  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink more liquid during cancer treatment. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You see blood in your urine.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You have no feeling in or near the area of your osteosarcoma.
  • You are unable to move the limb that has the tumor.
  • You have severe pain.
  • Your bone breaks.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your pain and swelling get worse.
  • You are vomiting and cannot keep food or liquids down.
  • You see or feel new lumps under your skin.
  • You have a lump that is getting bigger.
  • You are weak or confused.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.