Each year in the United States, close to 250,000 women learn they have breast cancer. As they deal with their diagnosis, they are also asked to make daunting decisions about how to best fight their disease.
New patients facing treatment need to understand their options, and that means learning all they can about their cancer, says breast cancer surgeon Lee Gravatt Wilke, MD.
Wilke, who is an assistant professor of surgery at Duke University Health System and a board member of the NavigateCancer...
Breastcancer can come back as a local recurrence (meaning in the treated breast or near the mastectomy scar) or somewhere else in the body. Some of the most common sites of recurrence outside the breast are the lymph nodes, bones, liver, lungs, and brain.
How Do I Know if There Is a Recurrence of Breast Cancer?
If you've been treated for breast cancer, you should keep doing breast self-exams, checking the treated area and your other breast each month. You should tell your doctor about any changes right away.
Also, keep getting regular mammograms. In some screening centers, three-dimensional mammograms are available in addition to traditional digital mammograms. If genetic tests show you have the BRCA mutations, you may also need an MRI of your breast. Talk to your doctor about the best screening tests for you.
Breast changes that might be a recurrence include:
A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that doesn’t go away after your period
A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast
Along with monthly breast self-exams, you should go to follow-up appointments with your doctor. During these appointments, your doctor should examine your breasts, ask about any symptoms, and order lab or imaging tests if they are needed. Go over any new symptoms with your doctor right away, like pain, headaches, weight loss, lack of appetite, or anything else.
At first, your follow-up appointments may be every 3 to 4 months. The longer you are cancer-free, the less often you will need to see your doctor.