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Department of Orthopedics

Department of Orthopedics


Frequently Asked Questions about Orthopaedic Oncology

What is a bone tumor?

A bone tumor is a spontaneous growth that starts anywhere in bone. It starts at a small group of cells that escape normal control mechanisms and grow. Eventually it destroys the surrounding normal bone and may be so large that it breaks through the confines at the bone and it is then palpable as a nodule or mass.

What is the difference between malignant or benign tumors?

Both grow locally and should not be inside the bone or muscle. Malignant tumors are usually more aggressive, grow faster and tend to metastatize (spread to other parts of the body) and they may spread to the lungs (most common). Benign tumors tend to grow slower and they also destroy the normal bone or muscle but do not metastasize. Benign tumors also tend not to recur as often as malignant tumors after surgical removal.

What is a soft tissue tumor?

This is a growth (multiplications) of abnormal cells usually within muscle or fat tissue. It later forms a nodule which becomes larger and is essentially palpable with your fingers. Again this may be benign or malignant.

How are tumors treated?

We may surgically excise them (cut them out). Some tumors will be treated with radiation and or chemotherapy followed by an operation. Also surgical removal of the tumor especially in the bone, the portion of bone or joint that has been removed must be replaced. This is done by way of a dorsal bone transplant or a metal prosthesis.

What is a muscle or skin flap?

After removal of the tumor and a layer of the normal tissue, a hole (defect) is left behind and sometimes it is not possible to just pull the skin edges together because the defect is too big. A muscle or skin from a nearby location is then transferred to fill the gap. This procedure enhances healing.

What is Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is a condition where bacteriae locate themselves in a bone and start to multiply bone. Bacteriae gain access to bone via the blood stream. These bacteriae then move along with the blood stream to bone and start a new infection. Occasionally they travel from the hair follicles in your skin to the deeper bone after an operation. Open fractures where the bone fragments protrude through the skin from inside out also pick up bacteriae from your clothes or soil.

What is a joint infection?

Joint Infections occur for the same reason as a bone infection; bacteriae may travel to a joint with the blood stream but they start a joint infection. They may also go to a newly implanted artificial joint, start to multiply, cause inflammation, and eventually pus will form. Your joint will become painful, red, warm, and swollen.

How are joint infections treated?

Antibiotics are used to treat joint infections. The joint is washed with sterile water but sometimes your artificial joint must be removed, only to be replaced later.