What is an excision of a tumour?
An excision of a tumour is a surgical treatment that addresses bone tumours (abnormal growths appearing in bone tissue), usually in the form of a lump or mass. They appear when cells—for reasons not yet fully understood—divide and grow in an irregular, uncontrolled way. When a tumour forms in a bone, it can begin taking the place of normal, healthy tissue, weakening the bone’s structure and making it more susceptible to fracture.
Most bone tumours are benign—in other words, not cancerous or life-threatening. In some cases, a malignant, cancerous tumour arises, and its cells may be spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic systems. With either type of a tumour (benign or malignant), your doctor may determine that the best course of treatment is tumour surgery, also known as excision of a tumour.
A bone tumour can sometimes cause considerable discomfort and limit your use of the limb or joint affected. In some cases, a malignant bone tumour can be fatal, particularly if cancer spreads to other parts of the body (metastasizes). If you have any reason to suspect that you have a bone tumour, you may, in fact, need tumour treatment, so it is very important that you seek immediate medical attention.
How your tumor is diagnosed
To diagnose your condition, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and the symptoms you have been experiencing and will perform a physical exam. If it is uncertain whether a tumor is present, or if the character of a tumor is unknown, one of more of these tests can help answer these questions:
- X-Ray (radiograph)—The initial test used in the majority of cases is the familiar X-ray, also known as a radiograph. A particular type of electromagnetic radiation capable of passing through the body is used to create images of the area of the suspected tumor. Because tumor tissue absorbs X-ray radiation differently from the way normal tissues surrounding it do, the radiograph will reveal the tumor’s presence and so open the door to effective tumor treatment.
- Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)—CAT scan technology combines X-ray imaging with computer equipment and programming to produce detailed—even 3D—images of the body. The technique allows closer study of the tissues for diagnosis and treatment planning and for guiding tumor surgery where needed.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—Magnetic resonance imaging makes use of entirely different principles than those of X-ray or CAT scan imaging. A powerful magnetic field, precisely aimed radio waves and advanced computer technology are used to produce highly detailed images of the body. MRI is particularly useful in determining what types of tissues are present, making it an excellent tool for spotting unhealthy tissues such as tumors.
- Nuclear medicine testing—These imaging studies show where different tissues may be active, such as more bone formation or a tumor being metabolically overactive. These tests often will look at the whole body to see if there are any other sites of disease. These include whole body bone scans and PET/CT scans.
- Blood tests—Blood may be drawn and analyzed in the laboratory to detect any signs that a bone tumor (particularly a cancerous one) is present.
- Biopsy—A biopsy is a relatively routine technique used to obtain and analyze a sample of tissue from a suspected tumor. In one type of biopsy, a local anesthetic is given, a needle is inserted into the tissue and a small sample is withdrawn and taken to the laboratory for analysis. In some cases, an open biopsy is performed under anesthesia, a small incision is made and a tiny tissue sample is taken and analyzed.
Types of treatment
If a bone tumor is found to be benign, your doctor may recommend that it simply be observed, without any active treatment. In many cases, particularly in children, such a tumor will disappear on its own.
If a tumor is diagnosed as cancerous, active tumor treatment is extremely important. The type and location of the tumor and whether or not it has begun spreading to other parts of the body determines the method or methods used.
Nonsurgical bone tumor treatments include radiation therapy (using powerful X-rays to kill cancerous cells and shrink the tumor) and chemotherapy (use of cancer-killing medicines to kill tumor cells that have spread through the body).
Since some types of benign tumors may eventually become malignant and spread, your doctor may recommend excision (surgical bone tumor removal). Excision of the tumor may also be advisable to lessen the risk of breaking a bone weakened by a tumor’s presence.
In most cases, malignant (cancerous) bone tumors must be removed through surgery. Often surgery is used in combination with radiation and chemical therapies to lessen the risk of the cancer’s spread or return. This approach is called limb salvage surgery. Only the cancerous tissue is removed, with the surrounding bone, muscles, nerves and blood vessels left intact. In some cases, bone that has been removed may be replaced by a metallic implant or transplanted bone tissue.
On occasion, when a malignant bone tumor has grown very large and other nearby tissues also are affected (such as muscle or blood vessels), amputation is necessary to eliminate the cancerous tissues and safeguard the rest of the body.