Life after treatment for bone cancer

This information is about life after having surgery for bone cancer. You may find it useful to read about surgery first.

Life after limb-sparing surgery

The long-term effects of limb-sparing surgery depend on which part of your body is affected and the kind of operation you have. The best person to ask about possible effects is your surgeon.

After limb-sparing surgery, the limb might not work as well as it did before the operation. Physiotherapy is an important part of your recovery. You will have exercises to do to help get your limb working as well as possible. These can be hard work, but it’s important to keep going with them.

Knee joint replacement

If you have a knee joint replacement, you can still walk and swim afterwards. But your doctor might advise you not to play high-impact sports like hockey, football, tennis or rugby. These activities could damage or loosen the new joint.

It is usually okay to run a short distance, for example running to catch a bus. But regular running or jogging wears out the new joint. It is best to avoid this, or the joint might need replacing after a few years.

Hip joint replacements

After a hip joint replacement, you should be able to do most of your usual activities. But doctors will probably advise you to avoid running and high-impact sports.

Shoulder replacement

After having a shoulder replacement, you will be able to move your arm below shoulder height. But you might not be able to lift your arm above your shoulder.

Bone implant

You may have an implant put into a bone while you are still growing. If so, it will need lengthening as your leg or arm grows. Some types of implant can be lengthened without an operation. But with others, you will need surgery. Your specialist or key worker can tell you what kind of implant you have.

Life after amputation

After amputation, you usually have an artificial limb fitted. This is called a prosthesis. There are artificial limb designs that let you do all types of physical activity. This includes walking, swimming, running, cycling and playing sports.

Different types of prosthesis let you do different things. For example, some people have one for wearing day-to-day. But some people also have an extra one, designed for something like swimming or athletics.

How will I feel?

Things may be tough as you get used to living with the changes in your body. You might have lots of different emotions. You might be tearful, angry, fed up or sad at times. You might feel like you have lost all your confidence. Or you may feel that you will never be able to live a normal life or be in a relationship. These feelings are normal, and it's important to get support to help you cope with them. You could talk to:

  • your specialist nurse or keyworker
  • family or friends
  • a counsellor
  • other young people in a similar situation, for example through our Online Community or through a support group.

The way other people react can be hard to cope with too. You might worry about what your friends will think or how they will treat you. The thought of going back into school, college or work can be scary. Even people in your family might not know what to say or do. Others might say things that sound stupid or seem hurtful.

Try to choose a couple of close relatives or friends who you can talk to if things upset you. You might find it useful to talk to someone outside your close circle. This might be your specialist nurse, keyworker or counsellor. Most people find it helps to talk about how they are feeling or what they are worried about.

Reading our cancer guide for young people may also be helpful.

Watch: Life after bone cancer for a young adult | Olivia's story

Watch: Life after bone cancer for a young adult | Olivia's story

Sex and fertility

Sex and relationships might be something you worry about when you find out you have cancer. Or you may only start to think about your sex life as you go through treatment, or after it’s finished. We have information that explains some of the physical and emotional effects cancer can have on your sex life and relationships.

If you have sex during chemotherapy treatment, it is important to protect yourself and your partner. It is also important to prevent a pregnancy. If you have any questions about this, ask your doctor or nurse for advice. 


When you finish your treatment, your doctor will talk to you about what happens next. They will explain some of the long-term risks that bone cancer and its treatment could have for you. They will arrange to see you regularly in clinic to check how you are.

After my operation, I did exercises to strengthen the prosthesis, including bending, stretching and strengthening. It was hard work, but looking back now, I realise how important it was.


Back to Bone cancer

The bones

Knowing what your bones do might help you understand what bone cancer is.