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Background. Osteosarcoma is the most common primary malignant bone tumour. There is a high incidence of late presentation in the developing world, posing additional challenges in the treatment of this aggressive disease.
Objective. To evaluate clinical outcomes of patients with osteosarcoma at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH), a tertiary hospital in South Africa, and compare these with similar studies in the developing world.
Methods. This was a retrospective study of 61 patients treated at CMJAH between 2007 and 2011, with a minimum follow-up of 1.3 years (range 1.3 - 6.3).
Results. An average of 4.5 months elapsed before patients were first seen at the CMJAH tumour unit. Fifty-eight patients (95.1%) initially sought conventional medical care. Three patients (4.9%) presented with pathological fractures. All the patients underwent biopsy, performed an average of 3 weeks after arrival at the tumour unit. In most cases the delay was due to limited access to magnetic resonance imaging. Most patients (n=41, 67.2%) were at Enneking stage 2B, 4 (6.6%) were at stage 2A and 16 (26.2%) were at stage 3. Of the patients, 13 (21.3%) underwent limb salvage procedures, 33 (54.1%) had amputations, 4 (6.6%) refused further treatment and 11 (18.0%) received palliative care only; 55 patients (90.2%) received chemotherapy. Two patients developed local recurrence, one of whom had an amputation and the other further wide excision. Two patients received palliative radiotherapy. Of the patients, 82.0% were HIV-negative, 4.9% HIVpositive and the rest of unknown status. At the time of the study, all but two patients, who came from other countries, were traceable or known to have died. Our overall 1-year and 5-year survival rates were 62.7% (95% confidence interval (CI) 49.1 - 73.9) and 38.1% (95% CI 24.6 - 51.4), respectively. Male patients and those with a higher Enneking stage had a poorer prognosis.
Conclusion. Although most patients sought conventional medical care, unacceptable delays worsened survival. However, our survival rates are better than those in other developing countries. We advocate that professional, public and political awareness of osteosarcoma be improved as a matter of urgency, to facilitate rapid tertiary referral and expedite management.