When your active treatment (e.g. surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy) has ended, your doctor will recommend a plan for follow-up tests and check-ups.
A follow-up plan is based on your individual circumstances and is often shared between your GP and a member of your treating team, such as your medical oncologist or surgeon.
This is often referred to as “shared care”.
Follow-up appointments give you a chance to talk about any side effects of treatment or any physical, emotional and practical issues that you are experiencing and get some advice from your doctor about ways to manage them.
You may be referred to an allied health professional, such as a physiotherapist, to assist with managing side effects of treatment.
A basic care plan usually includes:
a summary of your treatment
contact details for the health professionals involved in your treatment
a schedule of follow-up tests (including mammograms)
a list of side effects and symptoms to watch out for, e.g. possible long-term side effects that may have been discussed with you
suggested ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A follow-up care schedule commonly consists of an appointment and tests (mammogram and/or ultrasound) every three to six months from your last treatment date, for the first one to two years, followed by six to twelve monthly after that time.
Between check-ups, it's a good idea to get to know how your breasts look and feel. If you detect anything unusual, make an appointment with your GP right away.
Remember, swelling and scarring after surgery usually settles down after a few months while changes in the breast after radiotherapy can sometimes take up to two years to settle.
Having your annual check-up can be unsettling and stressful.
The following strategies may help you deal with check-up stress:
plan something exciting to look forward to after your check-up
take your partner or a friend with you to the appointment
go for a walk
try relaxation therapy, yoga or guided visualisation to help calm you.
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.
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Contact BCNA’s Helpline on 1800 500 258 between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm AEST Monday to Friday, for information about the services and support that may be available for you and your family.
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