Follow up care after treatment for breast cancer
Regular follow-up examinations are very important after cancer treatment, to detect whether the cancer has returned. The woman should inform her doctor if she has any problems that crop up, such as pain, cough, loss of appetite or weight, dizziness or headaches. The commonest sites of recurrence due to spread of the disease from the original site in the breast, are the bones, lungs and liver.
A mammogram of the opposite breast should be done annually or every 2 years once. After breast conservation surgery, mammographic screening to look for a local recurrence is important.
Do not forget monthly self breast examination. If conservation surgery (eg lumpectomy) was done, one should ask your doctor and learn what is to be expected and felt as a result of the treatment effect such as thickening and hardening from radiation therapy. Difficult as it might seem in the initial period (because psychologically, one may not have recovered) it should not be neglected.
Studies world-wide have shown no survival benefit to routine surveillance of the chest (chest radiograph), liver (ultrasound) and bones (bone scan). Therefore, in most breast clinics, routine scans and blood tests are not done, unless the woman has symptoms that suggest recurrence.