Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are rare conditions that affect approximately 13,000 people each year. In the US, 10,000 are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcomas and approximately 3,000 are diagnosed with bone sarcomas, of which 1,000 are osteosarcomas.
The most common type of sarcoma that develops in the bone is called an osteosarcoma while sarcomas that develop in the connective tissue are called soft tissue sarcomas. Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. The rarity of sarcomas means most doctors seldom see one, which explains why patients are often referred to specialty hospitals where experienced surgeons utilize limb-sparing (no amputation) surgery whenever possible.
Osteosarcomas are aggressive malignant bone tumors and are the most common type of bone cancer in young people. They usually occur between the ages of 10 and 25, but can occur at any age and are more common in males than females. They encompass about 20% of all primary bone cancers and it is estimated that the incidence rate in U.S. patients under 20 years of age is 5 per million. Osteosarcomas most commonly start in the ends of long bones of the arms or legs where new bone tissue rapidly forms.
Symptoms of Osteosarcoma
- Pain near the affected bone is the most common osteosarcoma symptom
- Swelling of the bones and joints. Noticeable swelling or protrusion near the location of the tumor
- Brittleness/weakness of the bone which can lead to fractures
- Difficulty moving during physical activity
- Noticeable limp when the osteosarcoma is in the leg
Treatment for Osteosarcoma
Typically chemotherapy is given to shrink the tumor before surgery. Most often, chemotherapy results in a necrosis (or death) of the tumor and allows the physician to treat possible cells in the blood stream. In most cases, surgery is required to remove the section of cancerous bone. Limb sparing surgery (LSS) is a special operative procedure performed by oncology orthopedic surgeons and has become the accepted standard of care for patients with sarcomas of the extremities. Limb sparing surgery can be accomplished in approximately 90% of the cases. During limb sparing surgery, the cancer in the bone is removed surgically and the portion of the bone that was removed is either replaced with special metal prostheses or a bone allograft. An allograft is a bone transplant obtained sterilely from a person that has died and agreed to be an organ donor. Emory Orthopaedic surgeons have mastered the limb-sparing surgery in order to save as much bone as possible without compromising the ability to cure the patient.
Emory offers a unique multi – disciplinary treatment approach to bone sarcoma care. Emory Orthopaedic oncology surgeons collaborate with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologist, radiologists, thoracic surgeons, plastic surgeons and vascular surgeons to develop a treatment plan catered to each individual patient.
About Dr. Monson
David K. Monson, MD, assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at Emory University Hospital Midtown, started practicing at Emory in 1988. Dr. Monson is an expert in the treatment of rare tumors (sarcomas of the bone and soft tissue). Dr. Monson’s specialties are Orthopaedic Surgery (Board certified since 1990) and Orthopaedic Oncology. His areas of clinical interest are orthopaedic tumors, sarcoma, and limb reconstruction.
About Dr. Oskouei
Shervin V. Oskouei, MD, assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Emory University, is an expert in the treatment of musculoskeletal (extremity) tumors, total hip and total knee replacements and revisions. Dr. Oskouei started practicing at Emory in 2004. Dr. Oskouei is board-certified and fellowship trained in orthopaedic surgery. Combining his experience and interests with the state-of-the-art facilities of Emory University and the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University allows Dr. Oskouei to treat patients with the latest modalities using a multi-disciplinary approach.
About Emory Orthopaedic Oncology
Dr. Monson and Dr. Oskouei lead the Emory Musculoskeletal Oncology and Limb Reconstruction program at Emory. The world – class program treats a variety of conditions, including benign and malignant tumors of the extremities and spine, as well as metastatic disease. Together, they offer a combined 34 years of clinical practice experience. They care for both pediatric and adult aged patients.
Both of these physicians belong to the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society which requires fellowship training in orthopaedic oncology. Physicians belonging to this group must also have a primary clinical focus in orthopaedic oncology. This is important for patients because it means the specialist you are seeing has had extra training in this area and is viewed by peers as an expert in the care of orthopaedic oncology. Patients should take the time to research physicians in their area to determine if they are seeing an orthopaedic oncology specialist that belongs to this organization.