Get information about follow up appointments after treatment for breast cancer and the tests you might have.
Why you have follow up appointments
You usually 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:
- a mammogram
- an ultrasound scan
- blood tests
You might 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:
- signs and symptoms to look out for
- contact details for specialist staff, such as your breast care nurse
- details of support services who can help with problems such as arm swelling (lymphoedema)
How often you have checkups
After your treatment you might 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.
Some hospitals have a system of nurse-led follow up where you don't have regular appointments. In this system you might have regular phone calls with your specialist nurse. Or you can contact them and arrange an appointment if you have any new symptoms or are worried about anything.
Life after cancer
In this video Yvonne shares her story of life after breast cancer and how she coped when her treatment finished. She talks about some of the physical effects of the cancer and its treatment and what helped her through.
She and her sister Sonia also talk about what it was like going to check up appointments, something that is not always easy. Coping after treatment finishes can be challenging and hearing about how other people cope can help.
Yvonne: My name is Yvonne Pickford. I live in Birmingham and I’ve had breast cancer.
Sonia: Yvonne having breast cancer I feel has tightened the bond between us as sisters.
Yvonne: She helped me to stay strong and it was nice to have her there as my crutch
Sonia: When Yvonne informed me that her treatment was successful it took a while to sink in but then I thought, yes.
Yvonne: It is something that you just want to shout from the rooftop. I did it. And at the same time a little bit frightened of what do I do now. Where do I go now?
Because I was feeling uncertain, because I was feeling low, I decided to go to counselling.
The words of wisdom would not necessarily come from the councillors and psychologists that were there, they would come from the other group members.
It was nice to have people to talk to that had been on the journey and I found that it helped immensely. Definitely worth it.
I still had yearly check-ups which was a bit of a rollercoaster leading up to them.
Sonia: there was always that anticipation, fear as to what the outcome of the appointment was going to be.
Yvonne: But as time went on it became easier it became part of our normal you know, routine.
I still had a lot of fatigue, one breast was smaller than the other, I still had the scars. And also my treatment pushed me through early menopause which I was not ready for.
Sonia: These hot flushes that she would have became her tropical moments.
Yvonne: One of the things that I felt helped was to go back to my exercising. It lifts you. It just makes you be more positive.
Sonia: Having cancer was traumatic for Yvonne but it was also a wakeup call for the whole family. We appreciate all of the times that we have together.
Yvonne: Life is wonderful, life is good. You know, you’ve been through so much and you’re a stronger person for it. You have a different zest for life and you just love it.