So what happens now? What does follow-up look like now that I’ve largely been signed off by the consultants who’ve been treating me for varying lengths of time since my breast cancer diagnosis one year ago this very week?
At around the one-year anniversary of my surgery, in mid-December, I’ll have a mammogram and an ultrasound scan on the good boob (if you’ve had cancer in one breast you’re at increased risk of getting it in the other) and an ultrasound scan on the reconstruction (there’s no point in having a mammogram as there’s no, or next to no, breast tissue there). The plan is that I’ll have those tests anually for at least five years.
I’ll have my next and third round of the bone hardening drug, zoledronic acid, in September. I’ve changed from having that every three months to every six and the plan is to continue on that basis for the next couple of years. I’m on letrozole, daily hormone therapy. Letrozole lowers oestrogen levels in the body and so increases your risk of developing osteoporosis. The bone hardening drug is to counteract that. It’s also been shown to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back in post-menopausal women like me.
I’ll have a bone density scan once I’ve been taking letrozole for two years to measure the effect letrozole has had on my bones so far. The scan I had before starting hormone therapy showed I had strong bones to start with, which is good.
And that’s it.
Or is it? This follow-up plan only works, of course, as long as there’s no recurrence. If that happens, all bets are off, as you’ll know from posts I’ve already written. In between your formal follow-up scans and whatever other ongoing treatments and/or appointments you have, you need to stay aware of the symptoms of secondary breast cancer, not panic at every ache or pain but get any worrying signs checked… and hope like hell that the concern that led you to go and get checked was misplaced and that you are in fact still cancer free.