After your active treatment (ie surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy) ends, your doctor may recommend a plan for follow-up tests and check-ups, or tell you when she/he next wants to see you for a follow-up appointment. We know some women get a written five-year plan, but not all women receive this and so it can be a time of confusion. The 'After Treatment' section of Cancer Australia's Guide for women with early breast cancer in My Journey Kit has more information about what to expect.
Approximately one year after your diagnosis, you will normally have imaging tests such as a mammogram and/or ultrasound to check your remaining breast tissue for any changes. Some women (particularly younger women with denser breast tissue) may also be referred for an MRI scan as part of their follow-up care.
Between check-ups, it's a good idea to get to know how your breasts look and feel so you can make an appointment with your GP if you notice anything unusual. Swelling and scarring after surgery usually settle down after a few months, while changes in the breast after radiotherapy can take up to two years to settle.
Dealing with check-up stress
Many women tell us that their annual check-ups are a cause of great stress.
The following strategies have been recommended by women to help deal with check-up stress:
- plan something exciting to look forward to the day after your check-up
- take a friend with you to the appointment
- try relaxation therapy, yoga or guided visualisation to help calm you
- go for a walk and smell the flowers
- remember to keep breathing!
"I always kept myself really busy for the couple of weeks prior to my check-up and made sure I had something to look forward to on the night of my appointment to relieve the stress." --Tiffany
- The Beacon issue 60 (Spring 2012) includes an article on the importance of the GP role in women's treatment and care
- The Beacon issue 40 (Spring 2007) includes articles and women's personal stories about life after breast cancer treatment.
- The Breast screening page has more information on the recommended types of breast screen
- Join our online network if you think talking to others online and sharing experiences will help.