Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer and usually develops from cells that grow bones, known as osteoblasts. It often affects young adults who are experiencing a rapid growth spurt—specifically boys—and it often affects the knee.

Although no one knows exactly why sarcomas like osteosarcoma develop, there are certain risk factors. For example, if a child has inherited one of the following cancer syndromes, he or she is at higher risk for osteosarcoma:

  • Retinoblastoma: A type of cancerous tumor that develops in the retina of the eye.
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome: A type of inherited gene mutation.

Being exposed to radiation can also cause DNA mutations, which may mean that children or adults who have undergone radiation therapy for some type of cancer earlier on may later be at an increased risk for osteosarcoma.

Osteosarcoma is treatable by an orthopaedic oncologist, or an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in cancers. At University Orthopaedic Surgeons, our orthopaedic oncologist, Dr. Anna Wallace, is dual-fellowship-trained in orthopaedic trauma and orthopaedic oncology, making her more than qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat this type of cancer.

Doctors may use various tests and imaging procedures to diagnose osteosarcoma, such as X-rays. Patients diagnosed with osteosarcoma will have their tumor graded. The tumors are classified as either a low-grade, intermediate-grade, or high-grade osteosarcoma. The grade of the tumor indicates how likely it will be that the cancer will grow or spread.

Osteosarcoma is often treated first with chemotherapy as a way to stop the cancer cells from growing. Next, after the tumor has been treated by chemotherapy and has become smaller, a surgical procedure will be performed to remove it. Through this process, the surgical oncologist will remove as much of the cancer as possible. When removing the cancerous tumor, surgeons will always use limb-sparing techniques whenever possible. The final phase of cancer treatment for osteosarcoma may include radiation therapy, which is a type of treatment that uses radiation from high-dose X-rays or another source to kill remaining cancer cells.

Build Your Knowledge of Osteosarcoma and Oncology

If your child has osteosarcoma or has recently been diagnosed by an oncologist, it can be helpful to build your knowledge about sarcomas and how they are treated. Here are some terms that can help you better understand sarcomas:

  • Benign tumor: A tumor without cancer.
  • Bone cyst: A noncancerous type of fluid-filled tumor that is more common in children.
  • Chondroblastoma: A benign bone tumor that develops in the cartilage. 
  • Conventional osteosarcoma: A type of osteosarcoma that develops within the cavity of the bone versus the bone surface. It often occurs around the knee.
  • Enchondroma: A type of cartilage tumor that is benign. Enchondromas can sometimes transform into chondrosarcomas.
  • Fibrous dysplasia: A condition where fibrous tissue begins to grow and replace normal bone and marrow, which weakens the bone.
  • Malignant bone tumor: A cancerous tumor that occurs in a hard structure such as bone or cartilage versus a soft tissue such as muscle or blood vessels.
  • Oncology: The field of medicine focused on diagnosing cancer as well as cancer treatment.
  • Orthopaedic oncology: Orthopaedic oncology refers to the field of medicine focused on helping patients who have a sarcoma that has developed somewhere in the musculoskeletal region, such as the bones and cartilage, or soft tissues, such as the muscles.
  • Osteoblastoma: A noncancerous bone tumor that often develops in the spine.
  • Osteochondroma: This is a type of noncancerous tumor that often affects the long bones in the legs.
  • Periosteal osteosarcoma: A type of osteosarcoma that grows on the surface of the bones but not in the bone cavity. The thighbones are most common.
  • Primary bone cancer: "Primary cancer" is a term used to describe the place where the cancer first developed. 
  • Sarcoma: An overall term for bone cancer or soft-tissue tumors that are malignant. 
  • Soft-tissue sarcomas: These are malignant soft-tissue tumors, meaning they develop in a soft tissue of the body, such as a muscle or blood vessel.

The National Cancer Institute offers additional information on sarcomas, such as osteosarcoma. They also offer resources that can help you cope with cancer.

Exceptional Care at University Orthopaedic Surgeons

Our years of experience and advanced training devoted to the care of orthopaedic issues make us who we are, but our compassionate care of our patients is what makes us dedicated to you. Our orthopaedic oncologist and her team at University Orthopaedic Surgeons are here to improve the health and well-being of our community, treating patients dealing with the full range of bone diseases and conditions. They are also committed to staying up to date on new treatment advances so they can offer the very best to patients.

Dr. Anna Wallace and her orthopaedic oncology team are fully equipped to treat the complete range of bone cancers, including osteosarcoma, as well as noncancerous soft-tissue tumors and bone tumors. They are supported by our entire team of highly experienced nurses and other clinical staff and backed by our state-of-the-art orthopaedic facility. 

Since we understand coping with osteosarcoma and navigating your appointments and care can be challenging, we remain committed to providing you with the orthopaedic oncology care you need to excel.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with our orthopaedic oncology specialist, call our UT Medical Center office at (865) 546-2663 or request an appointment online.