A common question many of our patients ask is how often should they be seen to avoid the original problem recurring. While long term follow up or “surveillance” is individualized for each patient, malignant problems and benign problems each have a general follow up protocol.
After treatment of malignant bone or soft tissue tumors, scans of the area treated as well as scans of any area to which the tumor would spread are performed. For example, after removal of a soft tissue tumor of the thigh, an MRI is done to evaluate for any evidence of tumor recurrence. A CT scan of the chest or Chest X-ray is done to evaluate for any possible metastasis since the lungs are the most common place for these tumors to metastasize. Bone tumors may be followed with MRI, CT scan or Xray depending on the type of tumor and the surgical treatment.
Surveillance of malignant musculoskeletal tumors generally begins 3 months after surgery and continues every three to six months for five years. An important part of the surveillance is examination of the surgical site by our physicians, so you will be seeing our doctors immediately after each set of scans/xrays.
Long term follow up is rarely necessary after treatment of a benign tumor. However, many patients are seen at regular intervals (3-6 months) for the first year to confirm that the original problem has not come back. In general, if the benign tumor has not recurred 6 to 12 months after treatment, it is considered cured. There are a few rare benign tumors which may cause a phenomenon called benign metastasis in which a nodule appears in the lung which is identical to the benign tumor in the extremity. An example of such a tumor is giant cell tumor of bone. A chest xray or CT scan is generally ordered at initial diagnosis and after one year.