Follow-up after treatment for bone cancer

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for bone cancer is often shared among the cancer specialists and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • any new lump or swelling
  • pain, or an increase in pain
  • a cough that doesn’t get better or go away
  • headaches that don’t go away

The chance that bone cancer will come back (recur) is greatest within 5 years, so you will need close follow-up during this time.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for bone cancer are usually scheduled:

  • every 3 to 6 months for 3 years after first treatment
  • then every 6 to 12 months for 2 years
  • then every year

High-grade bone tumours are more likely to come back than low-grade tumours, so visits may be scheduled more often.

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. They may also ask about your prosthesis, if you have one after surgery.

Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:

  • looking at the area where the bone cancer was removed
  • feeling the lymph nodes closest to where the tumour was
  • listening to the lungs
  • checking for any swelling or infection in the area where a limb was removed (the stump)
  • looking for any changes in how the leg, arm or hip moves

Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • a CT scan or chest x-ray to look for bone cancer that has come back in the lung (lung metastases)
  • a bone scan to look for any changes or tumours in the bones
  • a complete blood count to check your general health
  • blood chemistry tests to look for any changes to how your organs are working

If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss a plan for your treatment and care.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.

Expert review and references

  • Gerrand C, Athanasou N, BrennanB, et al . UK guidelines for the management of bone sarcomas. Clinical Sarcoma Research. 2016: 6:7.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Bone Cancer (Version 1.2017). 2016.
  • Samuel LC . Bone and soft-tissue sarcoma. Yarbro CH, Wujcik D, Holmes Gobel B (eds.). Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning; 2018: 46:1243-1277.