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Cancer of the Bone and Connective Tissue

What is cancer of the bone and connective tissue?

Cancer of the bone and connective tissue is an abnormal growth of cells that form tumors in the bone, cartilage, ligaments, or tendons. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is still bone or connective tissue cancer, but is called metastatic bone or metastatic connective tissue cancer.

There are different types and stages of bone and connective tissue cancer based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the tumor started and where it has spread. Knowing the type and stage of bone and connective tissue cancer you have helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat bone and connective tissue cancer as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the tumor cells, prevent a localized cancer from spreading, and prevent metastatic cancer from spreading more than it already has.

The exact cause of cancer of the bone and connective tissue is not known. However, there are several things that may increase your risk. These may include inherited cancer genes, previous radiation to the bones, or Paget’s disease (poor bone formation).

What can I expect in the hospital?

Several things may be done while you are in the hospital to monitor, test, and treat your condition. They include:


  • You will be checked often by the hospital staff.
  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
  • Your fluid intake may be monitored closely by keeping track of everything you eat and drink and any IV fluids you receive.
  • Your fluid output may be monitored closely by keeping track of the amount of urine and bowel movements you produce.


Testing will involve both identifying the primary site of the cancer and checking to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer
  • Tests to look for abnormalities in your bones or connective tissues, which may include:
    • Biopsy: A biopsy may be taken to help make a diagnosis. A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of tissue for testing. This can be done by:
      • Needle biopsy: A test in which the healthcare provider puts a needle through the skin and into the tumor to remove some tissue to help make a diagnosis. The provider may use a CT scan or X-ray to help guide the needle into the tumor.
      • Excisional biopsy: Surgery to remove all or part of the tumor to check for cancer cells
    • Bone scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows any areas of bone where the radioactive material is being absorbed.
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of bones and connective tissues
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin cross sections of the bones and connective tissues
    • X-rays: Pictures of the inside of the chest, back, arms, or legs to check for bone or connective tissue tumors
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.


The treatment for cancer of the bone or connective tissue depends on depends on your symptoms, how well you respond to treatment, your overall health, and any complications you may have. Your chance of cure depends on how far the cancer has advanced. You may need to make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible and manage other treatments you may need.

  • You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow for medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.
  • You may need surgery to treat cancer of the bone or connective tissue. Surgery may include:
    • Amputation: Surgery to remove the limb (arm or leg) with the bone or connective tissue tumor
    • Limb-sparing surgery (tumor excision): Surgery to remove the part of the bone with the tumor and surrounding tissue. A bone graft or metal may be used to reconstruct the part of the bone that was removed.
    • Curettage: Surgery to remove the tumor from the bone and surrounding tissue. The area around the tumor site may be frozen with cold liquid, called cryotherapy, and the hole left in the bone may be filled with bone cement.
    • Lymph node dissection: Surgery to remove lymph nodes in the area of the body affected to check if the cancer has spread. It also allows the pathologist to determine the stage of the cancer accurately. This will allow your healthcare providers to determine if you need more treatment after you recover from surgery.
  • Treatments may include:
    • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells.
    • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.
  • Your provider may also prescribe medicine to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent anemia, which means you have too few red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to your body. Anemia may be caused by your cancer, your treatment, or other problems.
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Help your immune system fight cancer
  • You may need physical or occupational therapy to help you adjust to amputation or limb-sparing surgery. Most rehabilitation programs include:
    • Physical therapy to help you regain muscle strength and teach you ways to move safely
    • Occupational therapy to help you relearn ways to do the tasks that you previously did

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Redness, swelling, pain, warmth, or drainage from your surgical wound
    • Fever, chills, or muscle aches.
    • Depression
    • Swelling of your arm or leg below the surgery site
    • Deep bone pain
  • Ask questions about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you stay in the hospital depends on many factors. The average amount of time to stay in the hospital with cancer of the bone and connective tissue is 5 to 7 days.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-19
Last reviewed: 2014-12-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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