Breast Cancer: Your Follow-Up Care

Health Monitor Staff
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Once you’ve completed your treatment, follow-up care is important to ensure your breast cancer hasn’t returned or spread, and to monitor any post-treatment side effects. Together, you and your healthcare provider will decide the appropriate number of follow-up visits. Most cancer survivors will see their doctor every three to six months for the first three to five years, and once a year after that.

What to expect

Some procedures you may expect at a follow-up visit include:

  • Review of medical history
  • Physical and breast exam
  • Mammogram
  • Bone density tests

Additional testing, such as bone scans, X-rays and tumor marker tests, are typically done only when recurrence is suspected.

Long- and late-term side effects
During your follow-up visits, you'll also be monitored for any late- or long-term side effects. These may include:

  • Early menopause (hot flashes, vaginal dryness and stopped periods)
  • Heart problems (raised risk of heart disease, heart attack, etc.)
  • Infertility
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Lung disease
  • Osteoporosis

Nervous about your follow-up?
You’re not alone! It’s perfectly normal (even expected) to be anxious about follow-up appointments or further tests. Most people associate the doctor’s office or test results with illness and potentially bad news. But you can ease pre-appointment jitters with these steps:

Pinpoint your worry: Write down the specific things that are bothering you. For example, are you worried that having a biopsy will hurt? Or are you concerned about missing work if the test results indicate that you need treatment? Once you’ve identified the issue...

Ask yourself this: Who can answer my questions? Of course, your healthcare provider is the obvious choice, but what about your neighbor or co-worker who went through the same thing? If she tells you, for example, that there’s nothing to worry about, you may feel even better than if your healthcare provider tells you! Another tip: Put the most important questions at the top of your list so you can clear up those first.

May 2013