Chemotherapy for primary bone cancer
Chemotherapy 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 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 of an advanced cancer or control the symptoms.
How chemotherapy is given – Chemotherapy drugs are often injected into a vein. This may be as a day patient, or during a hospital stay. You will need scans (MRI, CT or PET–CT) during treatment to see how well the cancer is responding to the chemotherapy.
Side effects – These depend on the drugs that are given and where the cancer is in your body. Common side effects include fatigue (tiredness), nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, appetite loss, hair loss, constipation, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, effects on hearing and increased risk of infection.
Talk to your treatment team about ways to manage side effects. If your red blood cell count drops too low, you may need a transfusion to build them up again.
Video: What is chemotherapy?
Watch this short video to learn more about chemotherapy.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Prof Peter Choong AO, Orthopaedic Surgeon, and Sir Hugh Devine Professor, St Vincent’s Hospital, and Head of Department of Surgery, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Catherine Chapman, Adolescent and Young Adult and Sarcoma Cancer Specialist Nurse, Division of Cancer and Ambulatory Support, Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Paul Craft AM, Medical Oncologist, Canberra Hospital and Australian National University, ACT; Belinda Fowlie, Bone Tumour Nurse Practitioner Candidate, SA Bone and Soft Tissue Tumour Unit, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Prof Angela Hong, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney, NSW; Vicki Moss, Nurse Practitioner, SA Bone and Soft Tissue Tumour Unit, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; A/Prof and Dr Marianne Phillips, Paediatric and Adolescent Oncologist and Palliative Care Physician, Perth Children’s Hospital, WA; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Stephanie Webster, Consumer.
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