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Follow-Up Care After Breast Cancer Treatment

Once your breast cancer treatment has ended, follow-up care is important.

  • Keep talking with your oncologist and surgeon. Schedule regular appointments. Typically, you should see them every 3 months for the first 2 years after treatment ends, every 6 months during years 3 through 5, and then annually for the rest of your life. But your schedule will depend on your specific diagnosis.
  • Get regular mammograms. If you had a mastectomy, you only need a mammogram of the other breast.
  • Routine chest X-rays and blood tests in women who have no symptoms of cancer are not always reliable ways to check for the spread of breast cancer. But you will need regular blood tests if you had chemotherapy, to make sure that your body has recovered from it.
  • Between medical visits, watch for any changes in your body. Most of the time, if cancer comes back, it's within 5 years of when the cancer was first treated.
  • Women taking tamoxifen should look for any changes in uterine bleeding. Women on this drug who still have their uterus require an annual Pap smear, regardless of age.
  • If you need to see a gynecologist, or your primary care doctor for routine physicals, coordinate it with your oncologist.
  • Take care of your emotional and physical well-being. Make this a priority in life.
  • Avoid the tendency to compare your treatment plan and outcome with other breast cancer patients. Every diagnosis is a little different.
  • If you are postmenopausal, if you are taking an aromatase inhibitor, or if you've had chemotherapy in the past, get regular screening tests for osteoporosis.

Make sure you give yourself regular breast self-exams. Watch for symptoms such as:

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You get your routine annual mammogram and, soon after, you receive a call or letter from your doctor’s office. You’re told that a potential abnormality was found on your mammogram and you need to make an appointment for further testing. Although it’s unnerving to get this news, experts say you shouldn’t panic. "If you’re called back for additional mammogram views or a biopsy, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer," says Sandhya Pruthi, MD, associate professor in the division of general internal...

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  • Changes in your breasts
  • Skin rashes, redness, or swelling
  • New lumps in your breast or chest

Also look for:

  • Bone pain, back pain, or tenderness that does not go away
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

When it’s time to choose the doctor to handle your follow-up care, pick one with whom you feel most comfortable.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Angela Jain on April 15, 2014
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