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Bone cancer follow up

Men and women discussing bone cancer

This page has information about follow up after treatment for cancer that started in the bone (primary bone cancer). If you have cancer that has spread to your bones from somewhere else, this is not the right page for you. We have information on secondary bone cancer that will be more suitable.

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Follow up treatment for bone cancer

After your treatment has finished, you will have regular check ups. These may include examination by your doctor and X-rays.

If you have had osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma or Ewing’s sarcoma you will have regular chest X-rays. This is because these cancers can spread to the lungs.

For the first couple of years, you are likely to have check ups every 3 months. If all is well, you might then have 6 monthly appointments until you reach 5 years, then yearly. If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments, tell your doctor straight away. You don’t have to wait until the next appointment.

Many people find their check ups quite worrying, especially at first. If you are feeling well and getting on with life they can bring back all the worry about your cancer. You might find it helpful to tell someone close to you how you are feeling. It is quite common nowadays for people to have counselling after cancer treatment. 

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating bone cancer section.

 

 

What happens at follow up appointments

After your treatment has finished, you will have regular check ups. These may include

  • Being examined by your doctor
  • X-rays

You will not have all these tests at every visit to your specialist. But your doctor will probably examine you at each appointment. They will also ask how you are feeling and whether you have had any symptoms or are worried about anything.

If you have had an osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma or Ewing’s sarcoma you will have regular chest X-rays. This is because these types of bone cancer can spread to the lungs. It is important that lung secondaries are picked up because it is sometimes possible to cure them with surgery to remove secondary cancers. You're not likely to have CT scans or MRI scans as part of your routine check ups. But you may have them if you have new symptoms, or your blood tests or chest X-ray show there is a possibility the cancer may have come back.

If you have had an osteosarcoma, you may have blood tests for a protein called alkaline phosphatase (ALP). This is a chemical made by bone cells that can be picked up in the blood. Some people with osteosarcoma have higher than normal ALP levels. If you had a blood test for this when you were diagnosed and you did have raised ALP, then the test can be used to check for the cancer coming back.

 

How often you have check ups

For the first couple of years you are likely to have check ups every 3 months. If all is well, you might go to 6 monthly appointments until you reach 5 years. After that you are only likely to need yearly check ups. But if you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments, you must let your doctor know as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait until the next appointment.

 

Worrying about your appointments

Many people find their check ups quite worrying. If you are feeling well and getting on with life, a hospital appointment can bring all the worry about your cancer back to you. You may find it helpful to tell someone close to you how you feel. If you are able to share your worries, they may not seem quite so bad. It is quite common nowadays for people to have counselling after cancer treatment. To find out more about counselling, look in the coping with cancer section.

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Updated: 9 January 2015