Chemotherapy for primary bone cancer
This treatment uses drugs to destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells, while causing the least possible damage to healthy cells. It may be given for high-grade osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma:
- before surgery, to shrink the size of the tumour and make it easier to remove
- after surgery or radiation therapy, to kill any cancer cells possibly left behind
- as palliative treatment, to help stop the growth or control the symptoms of an advanced cancer.
How it’s given – Chemotherapy drugs are usually injected into a vein. Most people have chemotherapy as a day patient, but some types of drugs require a hospital stay.
You may have additional imaging (MRI, CT or PET scans) during treatment to see how well the disease is responding to the chemotherapy.
Side effects – These will depend on the drugs you receive and where the cancer is located in your body. Talk to your treatment team about ways to manage side effects.
Common side effects include tiredness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, appetite loss, hair loss, mouth ulcers, constipation, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, effects on hearing and increased risk of infection. Some people may need to have blood transfusions to replace destroyed blood cells.
Video: What is chemotherapy?
Watch this short video to learn more about chemotherapy.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Richard Boyle, Orthopaedic Oncology Surgeon, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Dr Sarat Chander, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; James Hyett, Consumer; Rebecca James, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Warren Joubert, Senior Staff Specialist Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Services, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Kristyn Schilling, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Cancer Outreach Program, St George Hospital, NSW; Prof Paul N Smith, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Orthopaedics ACT.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Talk to a qualified health professional with your question
Call 13 11 20 or email
Coping with cancer?
Support groups face to face or telephone, forums and more ways we can help
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment