What is Osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma is a rare bone cancer. It typically forms tumors in the thigh bone near the end of the knee or in the upper arm. Osteosarcoma weakens the affected bone and is most often diagnosed in children and young adults.

Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with cancer and the diagnosis, treatment and management of osteosarcoma. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health. 

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of osteosarcoma can include:

  • Bone pain that may be worse at night and which lasts for several weeks
  • Swelling in the affected area that lasts more than a week
  • Development of a limp in the leg affected or difficulty walking 


To determine if someone has osteosarcoma, we ask about medical history and do a physical exam. We also use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:

Biopsy: A small amount of tumor tissue is removed via a hollow needle or through surgery and is examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

Blood test: Blood tests check for certain chemicals in the blood that can help determine how advanced osteosarcoma is.

Bone scan: Special material is injected into the bloodstream and an advanced device creates images that allow a physician to look for cancer inside of a bone.

Imaging tests: X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other imaging tests can help the physician locate a tumor or see if cancer has spread to other areas of the bone or to the lungs. 


Scientists have not yet discovered the cause of most cases of osteosarcoma.

Risk Factors

In some cases, osteosarcoma can develop because of these risk factors:

Age: Most osteosarcomas develop in children and teens.

Diseases: People with Paget’s disease or who had a bone marrow transplant are at higher risk for developing this cancer.

Family history: People may develop osteosarcoma if family members have had bone cancer.

Gender: Males are more likely than females to develop osteosarcoma.

Genetics: People with osteosarcoma may have genetic changes that led to development of the cancer.

Height: Children with osteosarcoma are tall for their ages.

Race: Osteosarcoma is more common in African Americans than in Caucasians.

Radiation exposure: People exposed to radiation can develop osteosarcoma. 


There is no known way to prevent osteosarcoma. 


The prognosis for a positive outcome is high if osteosarcoma is diagnosed and treated early.

Treatment and Recovery

The treatment of osteosarcoma depends upon how far and quickly the condition has progressed. A combination of treatment methods can include:


Special drugs can be administered as a pill or injected into the bloodstream. This therapy may be given before surgery to shrink a tumor, or after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy treatment can continue up to six months after surgery. 

Radiation Therapy

This treatment uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells after surgery or to help control symptoms.


In many cases, a surgeon can safely remove a tumor and leave the limb intact. A metal implant or bone graft, or combination of both, may be needed to help healthy tissue grow in the affected area of the bone. In some cases, the size or location of a tumor may require amputation of the bone as the best option to help you return to a functional life. 

Recovery After Treatment

Regular checkups will be scheduled to monitor response to treatment. Follow-up visits are important and may occur every three months for two years, every four months of the third year, and every six months of the fourth and fifth years after initial treatment.


Osteosarcoma can recur and spread to other parts of the body, particularly the lungs. Other complications of osteosarcoma can include:

  • Bone fracture
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Slow or decreased bone growth and development

Next Steps with MyChart

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