©2019 by Northwest Sarcoma Foundation.

HOW IS BONE CANCER DIAGNOSED?

Biopsy

While most bone tumors are benign (not cancer and cannot spread), you are most likely to be asked to have a biopsy. This means taking a sample of the lump to examine under the microscope. This is the only clear and definite way to tell 100% whether a tumor is cancer or not. The biopsy will be examined by a pathologist. This is a specialist in analyzing body tissues and cells. The cells of cancer look different to benign bone tumor cells.

Core needle biopsy

Where a needle with a wide hollow center is used to extract bone tissue samples. You will be given a local anaesthetic injection before the core needle is put in. The needle removes a core of tissue from the tumor, which allow for accurate diagnosis because of the large quantity of tissue that can be obtained. The sample of tissue is examined under the microscope to look for cancer cells.

CT guided biopsy

Similar to the core needle, this biopsy is conducted with a larger needle with the aid of the CT scan equipment. This is used so that the tumor can be identified and exactly located on the computer screen (for example in the instance in which a tumor is located in hip joint or other difficult location to reach). The technologist then directly guides the needle into the tumor accurately and can take several samples of tissue. The tissue samples are then examined under a microscope.

Surgical biopsy

This will only be done if the other types of biopsy cannot be used, or do not give a definite result. Surgical biopsy means using a surgical knife (scalpel) to open the area and remove a tissue sample from the lump. Or, if the lump is small enough, the whole of it may be removed. Depending on the scale of the biopsy operation, you may have this done under local or general anaesthetic. If the lump turns out to be benign, you may not have any more treatment. If it is cancer, your doctor will talk over the treatment options with you.