Breast Cancer – Aftercare – Continuous support
Having cancer is traumatic and stressful for any patient. The purpose of aftercare – the medical support given after a treatment – is to provide the patient with long-term, comprehensive support and assistance.
Aftercare – Some common options:
- Medical care provides patients and their families with support and guidance for all aspects of the disease. The doctor will refer you to counseling services that specialize in supporting cancer patients. Medical aftercare includes follow-up examinations, treating the effects of the disease or therapy, as well as rehabilitation measures.
- Regular check-ups are important to detect any relapse or any further tumors as early as possible. Any possible side effects of the therapy are monitored and treated. The first follow-up appointment should be made immediately after the therapy has been completed.
The first check-up should be three months after surgery: every three months during the first three years, and every six months for the next two years. Check-ups once a year are sufficient if there has been no relapse in five years (this can vary from country to country, and according to your healthcare provider).
Types of aftercare
The type of aftercare depends on the individual patient. However, physical examination is always used to examine the chest area, chest wall and lymph drainage channels. The doctor will pay special attention to lymphedema (tissue swelling). Targeted diagnostics play an important role: breast conserving therapy (BCT) is followed by three years of mammography screenings performed every six months, and once a year after that. The breast that is not affected is screened once a year. Ultrasound is used complementary.
Duration of aftercare
Aftercare should never be limited. Even 20 years after treatment, women who have had breast cancer still have a higher risk for breast cancer. Awareness and active participation in early detection measures, such as self-examination, play an important role for breast cancer survivors. Any changes, including those to scars, should be reported to the physician.