Information about follow up appointments and tests after treatment for breast cancer.
Why you have follow up appointments
You have follow up appointments every few months to check how you are and see whether you have any problems or worries. The appointments also give you the chance to raise any concerns you have about your progress.
Your doctor or nurse examines you at each appointment. They ask how you are feeling, whether you have had any symptoms or side effects and if you are worried about anything.
You might also have tests at some visits.
The tests might include:
- ultrasound scan
- blood tests
You may also see physiotherapists and dietitians during the checkups. You can arrange to see them with your doctor or nurse at the outpatient clinic.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines say that everyone who has had treatment for early breast cancer should have a copy of a written care plan.
The care plan has information about tests, signs and symptoms to look out for, and contact details for specialist staff, such as your breast care nurse. The breast care nurse is a source of support and advice and you can contact them between appointments if you are worried about anything. They can arrange extra appointments at the breast clinic for you. The care plan should also include contact details for support services who can help with problems such as arm swelling (lymphoedema).
How often you have checkups
After your treatment you have regular check ups for at least 5 years. You have yearly mammograms for at least 5 years. How long you need regular appointments will vary depending on your hospital or clinic. The appointments may continue for up to 10 years, particularly if you have taken part in a clinical trial.
You might go for check ups at the surgical outpatients after surgery. You go to the cancer clinic if you have had chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The surgeon and the oncologist might share your follow up. This means you see the surgeon sometimes and the oncologist at other times.
Contact your doctor or specialist nurse if you have any concerns. You should also contact them if you notice any new symptoms between appointments. You don’t have to wait until your next visit.
If you are worried
Many people find their check ups quite worrying. A hospital appointment can bring back any anxiety you had about your cancer.
It can help to tell someone close to you how you’re feeling. Sharing your worries can mean they don’t seem so overwhelming. Many people find it helpful to have counselling after cancer treatment.