The first year after active treatment ends you will see members of your treatment team on a frequent basis. First, three months after active treatment ends, then on to a six month schedule of health care monitoring.
Every six months can be the norm for five years after completing active treatment, depending on the type of surgery, stage of your cancer at diagnosis, and if you are taking a hormone therapy medication.
In addition to your surgeon, you will see your medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist, if you have had radiation. There will be mammograms every six months at first, unless you have had a bilateral mastectomy. Blood work to monitor tumor markers may be part of your visits to the medical oncologist.
If you are on a hormone therapy medication to prevent a recurrence, your blood will be also checked regularly to make sure your are not experiencing problems with your cholesterol. A standard physical exam will be part of your oncology visits. Your bone density will be monitored and you will be referred to your GYN for regular follow-up.
Having just come off active treatment and now having to go for six-month follow-up visits to two, if not three members of your treatment team it is only natural to feel overwhelmed by all the time you spend making and keeping medical appointments.
The big danger for many of us is to neglect those body parts that don’t seem to have anything directly to do with breast cancer recurrence or experiencing the potential side effects of ongoing hormone therapy.
All we want to do is put as much distance between us and the breast cancer treatment experience. We are tired of being examined, poked and probed. Most of all, we are tired of being anxious about what each doctor will find during our exam and in our blood work.
So, we may tend to put off the dentist and eye doctor visits. Yet, our eyes and our dental health need monitoring on hormone medications.
We may ignore other screening tests such as a colonoscopy. But, this test is life-saver and needs to be done.
We still need to see our regular physician to monitor our general health. We need an annual flu shot and any other shots that can prevent us from getting ill.
Yes, it is a lot of maintenance and sometimes we wish for the days when seeing a doctor was a sometime thing.
We’ve made it through a potentially life-threatening illness, and we want to stay healthy. So, we need to be vigilant about our overall health and not just focus on our breast health.