The kind of surgery done for bone cancer depends on:
- The size of the tumor
- Where it is located
- Whether the cancer cells have spread
In the past, some children had their leg or arm removed (amputated) to get rid of malignant bone tumors in their limb. Now, this happens less often. Most of the time, surgeons can remove only the part of the bone that is affected by the tumor.
In limb-sparing surgery, also called limb salvage, the surgeon removes the tumor and any bone and cartilage affected by it, but leaves the nerves, muscles and tendons around the area so that your child can keep their leg or arm.
Seattle Children’s has three surgeons who are leaders in limb-sparing surgery. All three are trained in pediatric orthopedic surgery as well as musculoskeletal oncologic surgery.
Depending on the location of the tumor, the surgeon may use a bone transplant or a metal implant, such as a knee joint replacement, to replace the bone that was removed. Seattle Children’s was the first to use bone transplants in children to replace parts of bone that have to be removed.
Whether your child has limb-sparing surgery or an amputation, they will have extensive physical therapy after treatment. If your child has had limb-sparing surgery on a leg, they most likely will use crutches for 3 to 6 months while the bone graft or implant heals.
Children younger than age 12, who have more growing ahead of them than older children, need another surgery to lengthen their limb so that it keeps pace with their growth as they get older.
Limb-sparing surgery is complex, and it requires doctors to make careful decisions about which children are likely to respond well to the surgery.
Learn more about limb-sparing surgery.