Diagnosing Osteosarcoma

MSK sarcoma surgical oncologist Aimee Crago and staff

An accurate diagnosis leads to proper treatment. When our doctors suspect that a child, teen, or young adult has osteosarcoma, they confirm the diagnosis using x-rays, CT scans, MRI, and a sample of the affected tissue. Children who need a tissue sample taken are usually put under anesthesia before the tissue is removed.

After doctors make a diagnosis, they use what they have collected to find out the stage (extent) of the tumor. This shows how advanced the cancer is, and if and where it has spread. Because osteosarcoma can spread widely throughout the body, our experts often look at bone marrow and use imaging studies such as chest CT scans, PET scans, and bone scans to determine the stage of the tumor.

Patients whose cancer looks like it hasn’t spread have what’s called localized osteosarcoma. Patients whose cancer has visibly spread have what’s called metastatic osteosarcoma. 

Tumors can also be labeled as high grade, low grade, and sometimes intermediate grade. Low-grade tumors are not likely to spread and are usually treated with surgery alone. High-grade tumors are likely to spread and are treated with surgery and chemotherapy.