An osteosarcoma diagnosis is usually made based on the results of several tests that are recommended by a physician after a patient seeks medical attention for the symptoms that could be attributed to a bone tumor. The most common signs of osteosarcoma are intermittent bone pain and swelling, often around a knee or upper arm, which worsen with activity. In rare cases, an osteosarcoma may weaken a bone to the point that it fractures at the tumor site. Although these symptoms aren’t always caused by cancer, it’s still important to have them promptly evaluated by a physician.
To confirm or rule out an osteosarcoma diagnosis, a physician will usually begin by discussing the patient’s symptoms, taking a complete medical history and performing a physical examination. In some cases, the bone tumor is visible or can be felt from outside the body. Because cancer can spread to the bones after developing elsewhere, a physician will also look for symptoms in other areas of the body.
If an osteosarcoma diagnosis is suspected, a physician will typically order one or more diagnostic tests, such as:
- Imaging tests – Bone X-rays, chest X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, computed tomography (CT) scans, bone scans and positron emission tomography (PET) scans can reveal the presence of tumors and other potentially suspicious masses.
- Biopsies – If an imaging test suggests the presence of an osteosarcoma, a physician can perform a core needle biopsy, fine needle aspiration biopsy or surgical biopsy to remove a small sample of tumor cells and tissue. A pathologist can then evaluate the sample under a microscope and order further lab testing to confirm an osteosarcoma diagnosis and rule out infection and other types of bone cancer.
- Blood tests – The presence of certain chemicals in the blood, such as alkaline phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase, can provide important information about the stage of an osteosarcoma, and blood cell counts and blood chemistry tests can indicate a patient’s general level of health, both of which can be helpful for planning treatment.
The comprehensive Sarcoma Program at Moffitt Cancer Center offers patients a full range of innovative osteosarcoma diagnosis and treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and promising clinical trials. In recognition of our extensive research and commitment to improving cancer treatments, Moffitt has received the honor of being designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.
If you’ve recently received an osteosarcoma diagnosis or would like more information about the condition, you can turn to the experts at Moffitt. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.