Is a knee replacement possible with advanced cancer?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother-in-law is 75 years old and morbidly obese. She was just diagnosed with bone cancer in five locations including ribs, sacrum and femur. Her original cancer was also just diagnosed in her breast. The pain has been treated in her leg successfully with radiation and she's also receiving monthly IV infusion for bone health.

In the leg with cancer in her femur she needs a total knee replacement. Can she successfully have that done with advanced cancer?

Expert Answer

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

It certainly might be possible to have knee replacement surgery with cancer but when there is widespread cancer in many bones including the involved femur, the risk goes way up. There is also increased risk of complications like blood clots after the surgery as she will need to lie in bed much more. In this case the risks may greatly outweigh any possible benefit. There are orthopedic surgeons who specialize in bone cancer and I would ask one of them but it is likely that the answer for many reasons will be that it is too risky.