Follow Up Care after Treatment
Many people are surprised at the rather minimalist approach to follow up care after breast cancer treatment. Ongoing oncology appointments vary, of course, doctor to doctor and practice to practice. There are big differences among different kinds of cancer with some requiring more tests and scans. If there are blood markers that are useful, as in leukemia or multiple myeloma or ovarian cancer, bloods are routine, and other tests may be offered, too. For other cancers, including breast cancer, the standard of care does not usually include invasive tests and is, instead, a clinical exam, a conversation, and an annual mammogram/possibly breast MRI.
For breast cancer, there is no survival advantage in finding a recurrence via an elevated blood marker, in say November, rather than finding it due to a symptom in March. People respond just as well and live as long. This is, I know, completely counter-intuitive and may take some detailed conversation with your doctor before it make any sense at all.
This is an article from Medscape about this:
Breast Cancer Survivors Not Always Clear About Follow up Care
By Linda Thrasybule
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the purpose of follow up care is to keep patients in good health, manage side effects from treatment, find out if cancer has returned, and screen for other types of cancer, along with providing emotional support.
Many patients in the study understood this, to some extent. "When patients were asked about the aims of breast cancer follow-up, they most frequently mentioned that follow-up was to detect recurrence or give reassurance," according to a report in Maturitas June 23.
But 12 patients said they were somewhat uncertain about the aims of follow-up.
And some women believed - incorrectly - that breast cancer could not recur after two to five years of follow-up, and that recurrences could not develop directly after or between follow-up appointments.