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Sarcoma and bone cancer and radiation


A sarcoma or bone cancer diagnosis is life-changing. Bone cancer is rare and includes several types.

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About sarcoma and bone cancer

A sarcoma or bone cancer diagnosis is life-changing. Bone cancer is rare and includes several types. Some bone cancers, including osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma, are seen most often in children and young adults. Sarcoma and bone cancers form in the cells of the body’s muscles, bones, and connective tissues.

At Minneapolis Radiation Oncology, we understand the uncertainty and uniqueness that comes with a sarcoma or bone cancer diagnosis. Our radiation oncologists and supportive care teams are committed to helping you understand the complexities of the disease and how radiation treatment may help with your cancer. Our MRO radiation oncologists offer a level of expertise that comes from working exclusively with radiation cancer treatments and patients every day.

Types of sarcoma and bone cancer

Primary sarcoma and bone cancer develops when a tumor originates and grows inside the cells of the body’s muscles, connective tissues, or a bone. Secondary bone cancer, the most prevalent type of cancer involving a bone, forms when cancer cells spread (metastasize) from another part of the body to adjacent bones. Symptoms may include bone pain, swelling, and fractures.

Radiation treatment options

Because sarcomas and bone cancers are often surrounded by sensitive tissues like nerves and blood vessels, they can be challenging and complicated to treat. At MRO we work with the most advanced radiation therapy available, and our radiation oncologists are able to target difficult-to-reach tumors in the bone.

External beam radiation therapy is radiation delivered from outside the body that’s focused on the cancer. Most bone cancers are not easily killed by radiation, and high doses are needed. High doses, however, can damage nearby healthy tissues, as well as key structures (like nerves and blood vessels) in the area.

At MRO we also offer spine Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) for metastatic spine tumors.

Stereotactic radiation therapy is a specialized form of external radiation treatment where very high doses of precise radiation are directed at small targets. Because of the high level of radiation, the number of individual treatments required is less than in typical external beam radiotherapy (usually between 1 and 5 sessions). However, these treatments may take 30 to 60 minutes to deliver. The areas that are typically treated with these techniques include small tumors in the brain, lung, liver or spine. 

Most of the time, radiation is used to treat bone cancers that are unresectable. This means they cannot be completely removed with surgery.

Radiation may also be used after surgery if cancer cells were found in the edges (margin) of the removed tissue. Another term for this is positive margins, in this case, radiation may be given to kill any cancer that may have been left behind.

If sarcoma or bone cancer comes back after treatment, radiation can help control symptoms like pain and swelling.