Understanding Cancer

Bone Cancer

True bone cancers are very rare. Known as ‘primary bone cancers’, they start in bones or cartilage. There are several kinds, and each one will need a particular range of treatments.

What to expect before, during, and after radiotherapy treatment:

Explore The Patient Pathway

More commonly cancers spread into the bones from other places in the body, known as mestastases. These are also referred to as ‘bone cancers’ but are treated differently to primary bone cancer. The Cancer Society of New Zealand has more information about bone metastases, which can be accessed here

The Cancer Society of New Zealand has more information about bone metastases, which can be accessed here

In more detail

A primary bone tumour is generally called a sarcoma and there are several kinds. Osteosarcoma is the most common, and starts in the bone cells of legs, arms or pelvis. Less common is chondrosarcoma, which starts in the cartilage or soft tissue part of bones. Ewing tumours mostly appear in the pelvis, chest wall and the long bones of legs or arms.

The most frequently found ‘bone cancers’ have actually spread from other areas of the body. Under a microscope, their cells will look and behave like the original cancer, and need to be treated as such. This means that treatments for bone cancer can be varied.

Some rare types of bone tumour can occur in specific areas of the body, or in certain groups of people. For example, giant cell bone tumours usually affect the legs and arms of young to middle-aged adults, while a chordoma is found at the base of the skull or the spine.,

Other cancers that affect bones include Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which usually comes from the lymph nodes, but sometimes starts in the bones. Multiple myeloma develops in the plasma cells of bone marrow, and although it affects bones it isn’t considered a primary bone cancer.

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The Patient Pathway

First Specialist Appointment

At the first specialist appointment you will meet with your specialist radiation oncologist (RO) to discuss the proposed radiotherapy treatment approach and answer any questions and concerns you may have.


At the treatment planning appointment a patient care specialist (nurse or radiation therapist) will explain the procedures in more detail and answer any concerns that you might have about ARO or your treatment.


During the days following your orientation and treatment planning appointment our team of experts (physicists, radiation therapist planners and your radiation oncologist) work together to develop the ideal treatment plan for you. This involves a highly sophisticated planning software system and review process to guarantee safe and effective delivery of treatment. Depending on the site and complexity of the treatment, this stage can take up to two weeks.

First Day of Treatment

You’ll need to arrive 10-15 minutes before your allocated treatment time so that we can greet you and to give you time to get changed for your treatment.

If you are driving, we recommend you enter Gate 3, 98 Mountain Road and drive up the ramp to the mid level car park. Please walk across the link bridge to Auckland Radiation Oncology (ARO). Please report to the ARO reception desk. See location and parking for more information.

During Treatment

Weekly reviews with your radiation oncologist or one of our patient care team will be conducted to monitor any side effects and provide on-going support and advice as required.

Last Week of Treatment

An appointment will be scheduled for you to meet with a member of our patient care team to ensure appropriate care is organised after your last treatment visit. This may include regular monitoring of blood results, appointments for dressings and management of side effects.

Following Treatment