The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Medical Care After Treatment

Important information about coronavirus (COVID-19).

After you finish treatment for breast cancer, you’ll see your oncologist and other members of your health care team on a regular basis, usually about every 6 months for the first few years. After that, you’ll see them every year for many years.

The goals of follow-up visits are to:

Continue to see your primary care provider and other health care providers to [3-5]:

  • Monitor your general health, such as checking your blood pressure, cholesterol and risk factors for heart disease.
  • Get other routine health screenings, such as bone density tests and screening for other cancers.
  • Get gynecological care (for women), such as pelvic exams and Pap smears.
  • Manage other medical problems.

Recommended medical care after breast cancer treatment

Follow-up care after breast cancer treatment with your oncology team (see Figure 6.1) includes [3-5]:

  • Physical exams
  • Mammograms
  • Bone health tests

During follow-up visits, your health care provider will ask you about any symptoms or concerns you may have.

These visits are a good time to discuss how you’re doing emotionally.

Learn more about support groups and other types of support.

Figure 6.1: Recommended medical care after breast cancer treatment



Plan for care

Medical history and physical exam

Everyone treated for breast cancer

1-4 times a year (depending on your situation) for 5 years, then every year

Mammogram (of the remaining breast tissue and/or opposite breast)

People treated with lumpectomy plus radiation therapy

6-12 months after radiation therapy ends, then every year

People treated with mastectomy

1 year after mammogram that led to diagnosis, then every year

People treated with mastectomy and breast reconstruction

The reconstructed breast(s) does not need mammography screening

Bone health exams

Women at higher risk of osteoporosis due to risk factors including:

  • Aromatase inhibitor use
  • Early menopause due to treatment
  • Age 65 years or older
  • Age 60-64 years with family history of osteoporosis or with low body weight

Bone mineral density tests every 1-2 years, depending on a person’s risk factors

Adapted from National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and American Cancer Society materials [3-5].

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends breast cancer survivors get the seasonal flu shot.

If you’re currently in treatment for breast cancer or have been treated in the past, you’re at higher risk for complications from the seasonal flu [6].

If you’ve had chemotherapy, radiation therapy or other breast cancer treatments in the past month, call your health care provider if you have any flu symptoms.

Find more information from the CDC about the seasonal flu.

Find information about coronavirus (COVID-19) and breast cancer.

  • What does my follow-up care include? What is the schedule of my follow-up visits?
  • Which health care provider is in charge of my follow-up care? Which providers will I continue to see? Is there anyone I don’t need to see anymore?
  • What symptoms should I be aware of and discuss with you (or the provider in charge of my follow-up care)?
  • Are there healthy behaviors that may lower my risk of breast cancer recurrence?
  • What do I need to consider if I would like to have a child now that I’ve been treated for breast cancer?
  • What is the best way for me to treat menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes? What can I do to manage vaginal dryness and/or painful intercourse?
  • Can you suggest ways my spouse/partner and I can address issues related to our post-treatment sexual relationship, or can you refer me to a psychologist or counselor who specializes in these issues?
  • Tell me about lymphedema and my chances for developing it. What signs or symptoms should I watch for and tell you about?
  • What can I do to maintain bone health?
  • Can you suggest a counselor or support group that can help me adjust to life after breast cancer treatment?
  • How does my having breast cancer affect the risk of my family members?
  • What lifestyle behaviors can help my family members lower their risk of breast cancer?
  • Should my family or I consider being tested for BRCA1, BRCA2 or other inherited gene mutations? Can you recommend a genetic counselor to help me and my family decide if genetic testing is right for us? What issues should my family and I think about when considering genetic testing?

Learn more about talking with your health care provider

If you’ve had breast cancer, Susan G. Komen® has a series of Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources that may be helpful. For example, we have a Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Lymphedema resource.

You can download and print these resources and take them with you to your next doctor appointment. There’s plenty of space to write down the answers to these questions, which you can refer to later.

There are other Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources on many different breast cancer topics you may wish to download.

How is metastasis found?

Metastasis (distant recurrence) is most often found when people report symptoms.

These may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Bone pain
  • Seizures
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)

Don’t panic if you have signs or symptoms like fatigue, weight change or bone pain. These are common problems for many people. Most often, they don’t mean the breast cancer has spread. For example, bone pain may be a sign of arthritis or muscle strain. And, many people have fatigue for a number of reasons.

However, discuss any signs or symptoms you have (especially if they last more than 2 weeks) with your health care provider to find out the cause. It’s always OK to get a second opinion, especially if you feel your health care provider isn’t listening to your concerns.

Follow-up tests

If you don’t have any symptoms that could be related to breast cancer recurrence, and if there are no concerning findings on your physical exam, you don’t need extra tests. There’s no role for lab tests, X-rays, CT scans, bone scans or PET scans if you’re not having any symptoms and there are no findings on your physical exam.

If you have signs and symptoms that might be due to breast cancer recurrence, your health care team will order follow-up tests to see if the breast cancer has returned and spread to other organs (metastasized).

Depending on your signs and symptoms, follow-up tests may include:

  • Blood tests (including tumor marker tests)
  • Imaging tests (such as bone scans, CT scans, PET scans and chest X-rays)
  • A tissue biopsy (to check if a suspicious finding is a recurrence of breast cancer)

Other tests may also be done.

For people with no signs or symptoms of metastases, using blood or imaging tests (other than mammography) does not increase survival [4,7]. These tests are not a standard part of follow-up care.

Learn about the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Learn about treatment for local breast cancer recurrence.

Learn about metastatic breast cancer.

Updated 06/15/21


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