Follow-Up Care After Breast Cancer Treatment

Once your breast cancer treatment has ended, you’ll need to keep in touch with your cancer doctor and surgeon. Schedule regular appointments with them.

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 it was first treated.

Doctor Visits and Tests

Typically, you should see your doctors 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. Your personal schedule will depend on your diagnosis.

Get regular mammograms. If you had a total mastectomy, you only need one of the other breast. You’ll likely need a mammogram within 6 12 months after finishing your breast cancer treatment and at least annually after that.

Routine chest X-rays and blood tests in women who have no symptoms of cancer aren’t always reliable. If you had chemotherapy, you’ll need regular blood tests to make sure that your body has recovered from it.

What to Watch for

Give yourself regular breast self-exams. Pay attention to any changes in your breast, including:

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

Also pay attention to:

  • Bone pain, back pain, or tenderness that doesn't go away
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Persistent belly pain
  • Weight loss

If you take tamoxifen, tell your doctor about any unusual vaginal bleeding. If you take it and still have your uterus, you need an annual Pap smear, regardless of age.

If you are postmenopausal, if you are taking a medicine called an aromatase inhibitor, or if you've had chemotherapy in the past, get regular screening tests for osteoporosis.

Screening for Other Cancers

It’s possible to get a second, different breast cancer. And having had breast cancer may put you at higher risk for other types of cancers, including cancers of the:

  • Salivary glands
  • Stomach
  • Esophagus
  • Ovaries
  • Uterus
  • Skin
  • Thyroid
  • Colon

Checkups and Tests

After your cancer treatment, you’ll still see your primary care doctor or gynecologist so they can keep tabs on any other health problems. You also should get regular flu shots and other needed vaccines. Conditions your doctor may want to check for include:

  • Bone density (certain cancer drugs and menopause can weaken your bones)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Weight gain or obesity

Make taking care of your emotional and physical well-being a priority in life. Don't compare your treatment plan and outcome with others. Everyone's cancer is a little different.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on February 08, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Cancer Society: “Second Cancers After Breast Cancer,” “Typical Follow-Up Schedules.”

National Cancer Institute. 

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Breast Cancer Program: Follow-Up Care Guidelines.”

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