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Breast cancer behaves differently in each woman, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. Women with breast cancer should talk to their doctor about a follow-up plan that suits their individual situation. Follow-up care is often shared among the surgeon, cancer specialists (oncologists) and the family doctor.
After treatment has ended, new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away should be reported to the doctor without waiting for the next scheduled appointment. These may include:
The chance of breast cancer recurring is greatest within 5 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time. Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are also at an increased risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast, as well as cancers of the colon, ovary and uterus.
Follow-up after breast cancer treatment varies. Follow-up visits are usually scheduled:
During a follow-up visit, the doctor usually asks questions about the side effects of treatment, how the woman is coping and any new symptoms. The doctor may do a complete physical examination, including:
The only test that is done regularly as part of follow-up for breast cancer is mammography. It is done on both breasts (if the woman had breast-conserving surgery) or on the remaining breast (if the woman had a mastectomy). Mammography is scheduled:
Routine tests, other than a mammogram, are not recommended if a woman does not have any symptoms. Tests may be ordered if there are symptoms or if the doctor suspects the cancer has come back (has recurred).
If a recurrence is found during follow-up, the oncology team will assess the person with cancer to determine the best treatment options.
For more than 50 years, the Canadian Cancer Society’s transportation program has enabled patients to focus their energy on fighting cancer and not on worrying about how they will get to treatment.