Managing Amputation/ Limb Salvage after Cancer Therapy

Author: Dava Szalda, MD MSHP
Last Reviewed: May 2, 2019

What are amputation and limb salvage?

Some cancers require surgeries to remove a tumor from the arm or leg. This can be done with amputation (removing part of the arm or leg) or limb salvage surgery. Limb salvage surgery involves removing the tumor but preserving the remainder of the limb. Following amputation some survivors go on to get a prosthesis, which is an artificial limb or other body part.  

When to Call/Follow Up

Survivors who have an amputation, prosthesis or limb salvage procedure will initially need close follow up with their surgical team. Survivors who are still growing may need to follow up frequently during growth to ensure that the prosthesis is adjusted with growth.  

Any survivor who has new pain or discomfort in a prior surgical site should alert their health care team. Though rare, surgical infections can occur as phantom limb pain which is pain at the site of a removed limb.

Immediately after a surgical procedure, and after appropriate healing, physical therapy should be started to maximize function. If there is a change in prosthesis or symptoms then sometimes physical therapy can be utilized months to years after an initial surgery as well. Additional surgeries are not common but may be required. Some survivors with these types of surgeries have significant changes in their function that require accommodations in school or work. Oncologic or surgical teams should be able to provide the appropriate documentation for these accommodations. 

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