Managing an Amputation After Childhood Cancer


Amputation is sometimes a part of treatment for childhood bone or soft tissue tumors of the arms or legs. In other cases, it might be needed because of complications, such as infection. Here's what you need to know to about amputation due to childhood cancer.

What Problems Might Occur after Amputation?

Adjusting to an amputation takes time. Potential problems that might occur after amputation include these:

Physical Issues

  • skin blisters, redness, or bruising from a prosthesis that doesn't fit well
  • perception of pain from where the limb used to be (phantom limb pain)
  • shooting pains, severe cramping, or burning sensation in the amputated limb
  • skin breakdown and slow wound healing of the rest of the limb
  • back or other muscle pain due to increased use of other muscle groups and limbs to make up for decreased function in the amputated limb
  • increased effort to do daily activities
  • weight gain due to less physical activity
  • development of diabetes due to weight gain, less physical activity, and unhealthy food choices
  • in some cases, ongoing pain (see related Health Link: "Chronic Pain after Childhood Cancer")

Emotional Issues

  • emotional distress related to change in body image
  • dealing with peer pressure and body image change
  • coping with being "different"
  • feeling anxious, unsure, or sad

Logistical Issues;

  • paying for new prosthesis
  • coping with places that may or may not be accessible.
  • using public transportation (airplane, train, bus, and more)

How Can I Help Stay Healthy?

Follow these tips to help stay healthy:

  • Keep the rest of your limb clean and dry.
  • Check your skin daily for color changes and skin break down.
  • Wash often items that you use for the prosthesis, such as stump shrinkers, elastic garments, and stump socks.
  • Have your prosthesis fit checked every 6 months until you are fully grown, then once a year and whenever problems come up.
  • Work with a physical and occupational therapist for help with gait, activities of daily living, and exercise (including range of motion, strength, agility, and balance).
  • Have a yearly physical exam.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and activity level.

When Should I See a Prosthetist?

Contact your prosthetist if these occur:

  • You hear noises of any kind from your prosthesis (such as squeaking, popping, clicking).
  • You break any part of the prosthesis.
  • You need new supplies.
  • You have outgrown the prosthesis.
  • You have ongoing pain while wearing your prosthesis.

Where Can I Find More Information?

Talk with your doctor about any challenges that you face. In addition, the Amputee Coalition provides resources for education, advocacy, and peer support for people with amputations at www.amputee-coalition.org.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 8.1

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