After patients have completed treatment for early stage breast cancer, one of the common questions is "How should I best be monitored?"
At the current time, the standard approach for monitoring patients is a physical exam and a review of symptoms anywhere from every three to six months for the first two to three years, then every six months until year five, and annually thereafter. You should continue to have annual mammograms of the other breast.
In some cases following a lumpectomy, we recommend a mammogram of the involved breast every six months for two to three years, and then yearly thereafter. We also ask you to report any new or unusual symptoms so that we can determine whether any further testing needs to be done.
In terms of screening for the spread of breast cancer (metastases), the routine use of chest X-rays and blood tests for patients who have no symptoms is generally not recommended. Even though these tests may pick up a recurrence earlier, it is not clear that the earlier therapy for advanced breast cancer will ultimately lead to a better long term result. This is because when patients have metastatic recurrence, the focus of therapy is to keep the cancer under control but our ability to cure cancer is limited.
In addition, screening tests such as X-rays and blood tests can appear abnormal when in fact there is no spread of cancer and more invasive testing, such as a biopsy, may be required to sort this out.
For these reasons, most experts conclude that these types of screening tests for the spread of cancer are not warranted.
Please refer to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Guidelines for a more detailed explanation of the recommendations for following patients after treatment for early stage breast cancer. The ASCO is a nonprofit organization that represents more than 10,000 cancer professionals worldwide. The society offers scientific and educational programs and a wide range of other initiatives intended to foster the exchange of information about cancer. ASCO has developed guidelines for medical care following treatment for breast cancer to help you and your doctors make decisions about your continuing health care.
Please remember that the guidelines should be used as an information resource. Final decisions about your care will be made by you and your doctor.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
Basic Facts About Breast Health
Learn basic facts about breast structure and function and how to differentiate between the different types and stages of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Glossary
Check out our comprehensive Glossary of Breast Cancer terminology, which includes definitions of everything from AC chemotherapy to peripheral neuropathy.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Click now to find a summary of the factors that increase risk for developing breast cancer, including both factors that we cannot change and those we can.
Self-Care and Recovery
Self-Care and recovery resources including an Introduction to Lifestyle Change, Nutrition and Breast Cancer, Hydration: Water and Health, Meditation and more.
Breast reconstruction, surgery to rebuild a breast's shape, is often an option after mastectomy and is covered by some health insurance plans. Learn more now.
Mastectomy: Instructions Before Surgery
The following information will help you prepare for your upcoming Mastectomy surgery. If you have any questions, please contact the Breast Care Center staff.
Mastectomy: Instructions After Surgery
Post Mastectomy surgery instructions including, pain management, incision and dressing care, activity, diet, follow-up care and more.
Menopause and Breast Cancer
Breast cancer treatment often causes women to enter menopause prematurely. Although each woman reacts to therapy individually, certain side effects are common.
Metastatic Breast Cancer: Diagnosis and Treatment
Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that originated in the breast and has spread to other organ systems in the body. Learn more here.
Navigating Your Path to Breast Care
Different services and information are needed at different points in breast health care and breast cancer treatment. Learn more here.
Osteoporosis and Breast Cancer
Women who have had breast cancer or are considered at high risk for developing breast cancer are at risk for developing osteoporosis. Learn more.
Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
The UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center and the Department of Radiation Oncology have compiled information about radiation therapy for your convenience.
Knowledge may lead you to take action to protect your health and that of other women you care about: your mother, daughters, relatives and friends. Learn more.
Breast Care Center in Marin
1100 S. Eliseo Dr., Suite 1
Greenbrae, CA 94904
Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center
Bakar Precision Cancer Medicine Building
1825 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158