Primary bone cancer is a rare disease that can affect any bone in the human body, accounting for less than 0.2 percent of all cancers. When people are facing bone cancer, they will often see different doctors as they navigate tests, diagnoses, surgeries, and treatments including chemotherapy or radiation.
An orthopedic oncologist, such as Dr. Daniel C. Allison, MD, FACS in Los Angeles, is a physician and surgeon who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of primary, benign, and malignant tumors of the bones. With his expertise in musculoskeletal oncology, joint reconstruction, and anterior hip replacement, Dr. Allison is also the Assistant Director of Orthopedic Oncology at Cedars-Sinai Sam Oschin Cancer Center in Los Angeles.
Orthopedic oncologists are a unique group of physicians with an incomparable skill set. Dr. Allison is only a handful of surgeons in the country with this specialized expertise. With the primary aim to repair, preserve, and restore function, Dr. Allison is skilled at treating complicated cases including those patients with musculoskeletal damage from cancerous tumors.
The History of Orthopedic Oncology
Orthopedic oncologists are medical doctors and surgeons who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of primary bone cancers or cancers that begin in a person’s bones. Like the disease itself, orthopedic oncologists are also rare. There are only about 120 orthopedic oncologists in the United States and only 17 in Canada.
While orthopedic oncology is a highly specialized field, it has deep roots in European medicine.
Sarcomas were first characterized by their gross characteristics in 1804 but then evolved to include their histologic features in 1867. This means that bone cancer was diagnosed first by what could be discerned by the naked eye and then advanced to include an examination of tissue specimens under a microscope.
Early forms of cancer treatment initially began with local excision and amputation throughout medical history until limb-sparing resection was pioneered in the mid-1900’s. Nonsurgical treatments continued to evolve in the 1880’s but remained largely ineffective until the introduction of chemotherapy in the 1970’s.
These advancements continued to pave the way over the last 30 years towards improved patient outcomes using progressive reconstructive techniques, with a focus towards limb-saving surgery and improving survival rates.
Bone cancer treatment and orthopedic oncology continue to evolve to this day as oncologists work to not only discover less invasive treatment options but also better means of diagnosis and prevention.
Bone Cancer Facts: What Does an Orthopedic Oncologist Do?
Put simply, a fully qualified orthopedic oncologist is a one-stop shop for successful bone cancer care and treatment.
An orthopedic oncologist is trained to:
- Diagnose primary bone cancers
- Determine the best treatment to eradicate the disease
- Perform surgery to remove all cancer cells
- Perform reconstructive surgery to restore function
- Devise and oversee follow-up treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy
- Pain management related to cancer and treatment
- Coordinate patient care with other necessary specialists
A Look into Orthopedic Oncology Education and Training
Medical doctors complete four years of undergraduate study followed by four additional years of medical school. Orthopedic oncologists follow this path but must also complete a residency specializing in orthopedic surgery, which can last as long as five years.
Dr. Allison received postgraduate training at the University of Southern California (USC) in a combined orthopedic and general surgery internship, and then went on to an orthopedic surgery residency. During the orthopedic oncology residency, Dr. Allison became an expert in orthopedic diseases and injuries, while also becoming skilled in the surgical procedures used to treat orthopedic problems. By the end of his residency, he became a board-eligible, licensed physician specializing in orthopedic surgery, followed by a musculoskeletal oncology fellowship in which he learn more specifically about bone cancers.
The first year of the fellowship involves training in oncology treatments and diagnosis including radiation therapy and bone and soft tissue tumor pathology. In addition, the orthopedic oncologist is taught how to use imaging techniques, like X-rays or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), to help with diagnosis. The goal of the orthopedic oncology fellowship is to prepare the doctor to provide bone cancer care and treatment for any part of the body.
While the advanced technical skills and expertise developed by orthopedic oncologists allow them to successfully diagnose and treat patients with bone cancer, they can also apply specific techniques to treat patients with bone damage as a result of degenerative joint disease, arthritis or complex fractures. Read more about bone cancers at cancer.gov
How to Find a Bone Cancer Expert
Orthopedic oncologists are probably the smallest club within orthopedics. The truth is, because there are so few orthopedic oncologists practicing, you may have to travel to another city or state to receive care.
However, for primary bone cancer, it is crucial to receive care from a board-certified orthopedic oncologist not just to treat the cancer but to support your overall well-being and quality of life. Dr. Allison is not only highly acclaimed for his skill and expertise in treating bone cancer in Los Angeles, but also for his exceptional compassion and gentle manner when working with each patient.
Contact an Orthopedic Expert
Dr. Daniel C. Allison is devoted to providing exceptional care and treatment for his patients in Los Angeles. He is a recognized leader in treating complex cases involving bone cancer treatment, reconstruction, and bone preservation. Contact us today to schedule a personal consultation.
Next, learn Why an Orthopedic Oncologist is Right for You.