Breast Cancer Screening and
Monitoring after Treatment
In most cases, breast cancer patients are recommended by their
oncologists to see them every 6 months for up to 5 years, and then annually, after the treatment is completed.
These regular consultations are important to check that the patient is doing well (the tumor does not relapse),
but also to ensure the therapy was well supported and adapted.
What Medical Tests Are
Breast cancer monitoring is usually
based on clinical examination and a mammogram, performed 6 and 12 months after
treatment. Thereafter, up to 5 years, a clinical
examination of the breast will be done every 6 months and a mammogram every year. In cases these checkups
reveal satisfying results, a clinical examination and a mammogram will then be performed on an annual
basis. In certain cases, breast ultrasound can
be associated with mammography as well as a MRI, especially in cases where breast lesions are found and
difficult to be interpreted.
During the monitoring of the breasts,
certain health professional go further to prescribe an annual chest
radiograph. Depending on the signs found, other
screening such as liver ultrasound, bone scan, can be done to confirm or rule out the presence of metastases.
Additionally, in many cancer centers, an annual determination of tumor markers - antigen CA
15-3, carcinoembryonic antigen(CEA)
- can be requested, although these markers are not always specific and their usefulness
is not formally demonstrated in breast cancer screening.
What to Expect during
At each visit after the treatment, you
will be asked about your level of fatigue, pain (if there is any), appetite, and other general health
questions. The health care provider will also check your weight and
shape. You must not hesitate to report to the
specialist any unusual symptom. Certain tests can be done to clarify the
cause, which is most of the times not correlated with recurrence but an adverse reaction of the body to
treatment (side effects).
For instance, even a
successful surgery can cause pain and a decrease in the mobility of the arm, which can require rehabilitation
in some cases. Sometimes radiation therapy can cause
the development of fibrosis (the lung tissue is
damaged and scarred) which may resemble
small tumors. In case that happens, it is not necessary to not panic; the physician will make a difference
with a fibrosis and cancerous tumor.
In cases the breast cancer treatment included hormone therapy - Femara ®, Aromasin
® or tamoxifen
(Novaldex ®) – the body usually reacts to
the hormonal changes by causing side effects. You need to specify to your oncologist how far you can tolerate
the adverse reactions of these drugs. Although
inhibitors (AIs) are very useful in
reducing the risk of relapse, they can sometimes be associated with some side effects. Tamoxifen, for
instance, can lead to occurrence of annoying hot flashes.
The oncologist or registered nurse will
examine your breasts and chest wall looking for possible abnormalities. During the exam, you will also be
checked for presence of edema (abnormal
accumulation of fluid) in the operated arm by
measuring its diameter. Fortunately, this problem is becoming
increasingly rare the fact breast cancer surgery has vastly improved. However, to limit the risk, it is
recommended for patients not to lift or wear too heavy burden on the side of the operated arm. If an arm
swelling is observed, lymphatic massages will be offered to you.
How to Address Psychological
Effects of the Treatment
well-being is another essential factor to be taken into consideration during and after the treatment. Cancer
and its treatment can lead to serious psychological effects in some patients: please see Psychological Effects of Cancer
section. Therefore, if you experience a feeling of emptiness or sadness, do not be surprised; it is
common. For months you have struggled to undergo
the treatment and face its side effects (please see Managing Cancer Treatment Side
Effects ), it is not surprising that you feel helpless and
exhausted physically and mentally. Do not hesitate to talk to your health care provider and support
In fact during your
breast cancer monitoring, certain sheets can be given to you intended to help you
psychologically. In all cancer centers, specific
consultations have been implemented and you can meet professionals (psychologist or psychotherapist) trained
to listen and help you. This is also an opportunity to take
advantage of your relationship with your partner and/or your relatives.
If you have a general practitioner, he
can also be helpful to see him regularly in the aftermath of
treatment. Generally more accessible than hospital
oncologists, this specialist may receive you more frequently and respond more cooperatively to all your
What Foods To Eat to
Improve Your Mood and Strengthen your Immune System?
It is necessary to always
talk tour nutritionist or health care provider before considering any new diet. Below is the list of some
foods that are known to improve mood and strength the immune system. Some of them, such as bitter apricot
kernels, chaga mushroom extract, moringa and walnuts, have anti-cancer properties:
Chocolate (dairy and sugar free)
Quinoa (avoid white rice and
Lemon/Orange juice (homemade sweetened with honey)