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:

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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. 

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.

The Cancer Society of New Zealand has more information here

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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. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate.


At the orientation 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 and your treatment. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate.


Before starting treatment, you will attend a simulation appointment to determine the optimal body position for receiving treatment and provide a detailed picture of the area to be treated.

First Day of Treatment

Please arrive 10-15 minutes before your allocated treatment time so we can greet you and allow you time to get changed for your treatment. Please bring an extra layer of clothing (e.g. cardigan or jacket) should you feel cold while you wait in the treatment reception area. Please report to the ARO reception desk. For free parking please refer to the information below. 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. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate.

Last Week of Treatment

An appointment will be scheduled for you to meet with a member of our patient care team to answer any questions and 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.

After Treatment

Usually 2-6 weeks after your last treatment visit you will meet with your radiation oncologist or the doctor that referred you to ARO. Your GP will also be sent a report about your treatment and will continue to provide for your general health needs. 

You are welcome to contact our patient care team to answer questions or concerns that you may have about your treatment or possible side effects up to 2 weeks following your last treatment visit.  Please phone our nurses on 09 623 6585, email aronurses@aro.co.nz or make an appointment during business hours. 

Should you require support after 2 weeks, please contact the ARO Specialist Centre on phone 09 623 6587 or email specialistcentre@aro.co.nz. For all other health concerns, please contact your GP, usual healthcare provider or local emergency facility. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate. This includes information on possible side effects and self care advice by treatment site.