Orthopedics & Cancer: the Role of Orthopaedic Oncology
Orthopedic oncology is a specialty area of orthopedics that focuses on the treatment of cancers located in the soft tissue or skeleton, as well as the ongoing skeletal care of cancer patients. The goal of this area of medicine is to appropriately treat musculoskeletal cancers while preserving the maximum function of the area and reduce the pain is experienced by the cancer patient. This is accomplished through the careful studying of the cancerous growths within the skeletal structure and the monitoring of their progression so that they can be controlled in the most effective way possible at the best time possible.
Commonly this area of orthopedic oncology focuses on a condition referred to as “skeletal metastatic disease.” Cancer that is present in one area of the body such as the breast, lung, kidney or prostate can spread into the skeletal structure of the body. The term “metastasis” refers to cancer that is present in a bone by spreading from another area of the body, and can be a painful condition. If this metastasis grows large enough within the bone it can actually cause that bone to fracture. These pathologic fractures are exceptionally painful, and patients will have difficulty fully recovering without undergoing surgery and extensive therapy. To reduce the risk of these fractures, an orthopedic oncologist may use a treatment called prophylactic fixation in which small pieces of metal are inserted into the bone in order to provide additional strength and help prevent fractures.