Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Monitoring for Recurrence

After you complete treatment for triple-negative breast cancer, your medical team will set up a follow-up care plan. This is an important step in your cancer care to monitor your recovery, manage any remaining side or late effects from treatment and to watch for any signs of recurrence or metastasis. To develop a personalized plan, talk to your medical team about your follow-up schedule, which physicians you will continue to see and what screening is necessary.

Your screening schedule will depend on several factors, including your specific diagnosis, the treatments you received and your age and overall health. Generally, the following screening tests are recommended after breast cancer treatment:

  • Physical exams every three to six months for the first three years after the first treatment, every six to twelve months for the next two years, and then once each year thereafter.
  • A mammogram one year after the first mammogram that led to your diagnosis. If you received radiation therapy, it is advised to wait six months after your last treatment. A mammogram is then recommended at least once per year. Additionally, perform monthly breast self-examinations.
  • Genetic counseling if you have not considered it already.

In addition to following screening guidelines, patients recovering from triple-negative breast cancer are encouraged to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and exercising.

Recurrent disease

One of the biggest fears patients with cancer face is the possibility the cancer will come back, or recur. A triple-negative breast cancer recurrence is when the breast cancer comes back in the same or opposite breast or chest wall. If the cancer comes back outside of the breast, it is called metastatic recurrence. Both are considered advanced disease and a diagnosis of either can be overwhelming. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that there are treatment options available to you.

If your cancer recurs, be sure to talk to your medical team about re-evaluating the tumor for hormone-receptor and HER2 status because it may be different than your original diagnosis.

Recognizing your fear

As a patient with triple-negative breast cancer, your fear of recurrence may be compounded by the knowledge that long-term treatment is not an option for you. Once your treatment ends, you may feel as if you are not doing all you can to protect yourself against recurrence. Additionally, certain events such as holidays, family gatherings and medical appointments may make you emotional and more susceptible to worry.

All of those feelings and fears are valid, but they don’t have to control your life. You can help manage your fear of recurrence in the following ways:

  • Listen to your body. Not every symptom means a recurrence, but you can only be sure if you communicate openly with your medical team.
  • Create a follow-up plan, also called a survivorship plan, which addresses long-term side effects, support resources, nutrition, finances and more.
  • If you have metastatic cancer, monitor your condition with scheduled periodic testing as suggested by your medical team.
  • Embrace life by engaging in activities you enjoy.

 

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