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Bone Tumors

UC San Diego Health is a high volume referral center for treating primary and secondary bone cancers. We offer the most advanced treatment options to customize care to each person.

Treatment for Bone Cancers

Treatment options for bone tumors include surgery, radiation therapy, and sometimes chemotherapy.  The combination of treatments will depend on the type and stage of the sarcoma.


Bone cancer is generally treated surgically to remove the tumor. UC San Diego Health surgeons are experienced in advanced surgeries that prevent the need to amputate an arm or leg. These limb-sparing surgeries are transformative in protecting quality of life. They are a specialty service at UC San Diego Health, often unavailable at community hospitals.

Radiation Therapy

Although surgery is the primary treatment approach, radiation therapy is often used to shrink a tumor before surgery or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells left behind.

UC San Diego Health radiation oncologists use the most advanced technologies available to precisely target cancer cells and reduce damage to surrounding healthy tissues. 

Chemotherapy and Medications

Chemotherapy may be used to shrink tumors and make the tumor easier to remove through surgery or radiation treatment. You may also be given medications to help keep your bones strong and healthy.

Bone Cancer Diagnosis and Staging

We use many tests to diagnose and stage bone cancer. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): These imaging studies are effective in diagnosing bone tumors and can be used to see whether the tumor has spread to nearby soft tissue.
  • Biopsy: A tumor sample is taken from the bone and analyzed under a microscope by a pathologist to confirm a cancer diagnosis. We perform image-guided biopsies to make sure we are removing tumor tissue.

Types of Bone Tumors Treated

We treat all types of bone tumors including:

  • Non-malignant bone tumors: Most bone tumors are benign.
  • Metastatic bone cancer: Cancer can spread to the bone from the breast, lung, prostate, kidney or other organ. Secondary bone cancer is the most common type of bone cancer.
  • Osteosarcoma (also known as osteogenic sarcoma): This is a rare cancer but the most common type of primary bone cancer. It often affects the large bones of the arm or leg, occurs most commonly in people under age 20 and affects more males than females.
  • Chondrosarcoma: A cancer that forms in the cartilaginous tissue, it usually starts in the pelvis, shoulder, ribs, or at the ends of the long bones of the arms and legs. It is more common in people over 40.
  • Ewing Sarcoma family of tumors (ESFTs): These can occur in bone, soft tissue, blood vessels or other tissues. ESFTs are most common in the pelvis and backbone and in the legs and arms of children, adolescents and young adults.
  • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS): This is a rare soft-tissue sarcoma that begins in bone, and is usually found in the arm or leg (especially around the knee joint) of adults.
  • Multiple myeloma: Multiple myeloma is a rare form of blood cancer that begins in the plasma cells in the bone marrow and can affect the bones.

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We now use genetic testing to analyze tumors and tailor cancer treatments to individual patients.

See Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy.