After Breast Cancer Treatment

After your treatment is completed, you will be scheduled for regular follow-up appointments at Virginia Mason's Hospital & Seattle Medical Center.

During these appointments, your providers will ask questions about any symptoms, perform physical examinations, and order laboratory or imaging tests as needed. Be sure to talk with them about any symptoms or side effects and any other issues that concern you.

Typically, after five years, exams are scheduled only once a year. You will continue to have yearly mammograms of the remaining breast and the treated breast.

Women taking tamoxifen should have yearly pelvic examinations because this drug can increase the risk of uterine cancer. Women taking an aromatase inhibitor (anastrozole, letrozole or exemestane) may periodically undergo bone density scans because these drugs may contribute to thinning of the bones.

If Cancer Reappears

In some women treated for invasive breast cancer, the disease reappears in the breast, chest wall, or elsewhere in the body.

Small numbers of cells that survive the original treatment can multiply and cause cancer to recur. Breast cancer that comes back is quite treatable but the goals of therapy may be different, and it may or may not be curable at that point.

If exams and tests suggest a recurrence, additional lab tests, a chest x-ray, CT scan, PET scan, bone scan or a biopsy may be done. Depending on the location of a recurrent cancer, treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or endocrine therapy (anti-estrogen therapy.)