When to Have Follow-Up Visits

During the first few years after you finish treatment with chemotherapyinfo-icon, radiationinfo-icon or anti-HER2  therapyinfo-icon, you will have regular follow-up visits. Your doctor will monitor any ongoing side effects and make sure there are no signs of cancer in your body.

The timing and frequency of follow-up visits can vary, based on the type and stageinfo-icon of the breast cancer you had, treatments you received, treatments you’re still getting, how you’re feeling, and how long you’ve been cancer-free.

The American Society for Clinical Oncology recommends this schedule for follow-up visits with your oncologistinfo-icon:

  • During the first 3 years after treatment: Every 3 to 6 months
  • During years 4 and 5 after treatment: Every 6 to 12 months
  • 5 years or more after treatment: Once a year

Your doctor may want to see you on a different schedule, depending on your situation.

One way you can take charge of your care is by bringing concerns and questions to your doctor at your scheduled visits. Create a survivorship care plan with your doctor. Knowledge can help you feel more in control.

If you have a physical symptominfo-icon that concerns you between visits, reach out to your provider. After breast cancer, it’s common to worry when you have physical symptoms like fatigueinfo-icon or a headache, pain, cough or other problems you connect with cancer or you had during treatment. Much of the time these are normal aches and pains. But these symptoms may distressinfo-icon you because they could signal the cancer is back. Most doctors practice the “2-week rule”: if a symptom lasts longer than 2 weeks, make an appointment. Going to the doctor doesn’t mean you have cancer again. You will feel empowered when you take charge of your care and make sure your doctors pay attention to what you’re feeling.

Some tests you might get after you finish initial treatment for breast cancer include:

  • If you had a lumpectomy and radiation, you should get a yearly mammograminfo-icon of both breasts
  • If you had a single mastectomy, you should get a yearly mammogram of the remaining breast
  • If you are taking a hormonal therapyinfo-icon like tamoxifeninfo-icon, you should see your gynecologist regularly. Tamoxifen and medicines like it can increase your risk of uterine cancer
  • If you are taking an aromatase inhibitor, you may get tests for bone densityinfo-icon, because these medicines can affect your bone health
  • If there are any signs that the cancer might have recurred, or come back, your doctor may order tests including x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, bone scans, or blood tests
August 31, 2015