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Follow Up Care

Follow-up and Surveillance Guidelines for Breast Cancer Patients

The NCH Breast Center Physicians Advisory Board has the following recommendations for a woman who has completed her breast cancer treatment:

  • An updated history and physical exam should be completed every three to six months. If you have concerns, write them down and call your physician between visits.
  • Breast self-examination is an important part of your follow-up care for breast cancer. This should be done monthly. If you need instructions, visit breastcancer.org or call our breast nurse navigator in the Breast Center at 847.618.5880.
  • Mammography remains important. A baseline mammogram is usually completed at six months post-radiation and then yearly after that. Having your mammogram done each year at the same place is beneficial.
  • Pelvic examinations and PAP smears should be done yearly. Please report any abnormal bleeding to your physician.
  • Lifestyle activities that include maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in 30 or more minutes of intentional physical activity five days a week, consuming a healthy diet and limiting alcohol intake are recommended to improve your lifelong health.
  • Your physician may recommend other imaging and blood tests as needed.

Additional support for breast cancer patients

  • An on-site American Cancer Society (ACS) Wig Boutique offers cancer patients a wide selection of brand new wigs and other accessories at no cost. To schedule an appointment at Northwest Community Hospital, call the ACS at 800.227.2345. For more information, click here.
  • An oncology social worker can provide counseling and other services that can reduce stress for you and your family through all phases of your cancer treatment and recovery. Call 847.618.6914
  • We also encourage you to join a support group

Reconstructive surgery after breast cancer

If you have had a mastectomy and did not have reconstruction surgery at the same time, it is still an option for you to consider. To find an expert plastic surgeon at NCH, click here.

Click here to visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website, which features online patient testimonials, a discussion forum and information about breast reconstruction. Please note that this website contains a vivid image gallery of breast reconstruction pictures.

Lymphedema treatment and support

Lymphedema is the chronic swelling of a body part, most often in the arm or leg that can range from mild to severe. Normally, lymph nodes filter fluid as it flows through them, trapping bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances, which are then destroyed by special white blood cells called lymphocytes. Without normal lymph drainage, fluid can build up in the affected arm or leg, and lymphedema can develop.

Causes of lymphedema

  • It may be caused by surgery to remove lymph nodes, radiation therapy, injury to the lymph nodes, or if you get an infection or injury in the affected body part
  • Anyone who has been treated for cancer with surgery and/or radiation may be at risk
  • It can develop shortly after surgery, months or even years later

Signs and symptoms of lymphedema can include:

  • Fullness under the arm
  • Arm or leg feels full or heavy
  • Skin of the arm or leg feels tight
  • Less movement or flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle
  • Difficulty fitting the arm or leg into clothing
  • Tight-fitting jewelry, when you have not gained weight

Call your doctor:

  • If you notice any swelling, with or without pain that lasts longer than one week
  • If any part of your affected limb or underarm feels hot, is red or has sudden swelling
  • If you develop a temperature over 100.5°F that is not related to the cold or flu
  • If you develop a rash or itching

These symptoms could signal an infection and may require antibiotics.

Lymphedema Care at NCH:

The Lymphedema Management Program at NCH offers comprehensive and individualized care based on the Complex Decongestive Therapy that includes:

  • Education on lymphedema prevention and precautions
  • Education on the lymphatic system
  • Skin care and diet
  • Manual lymphatic drainage
  • Compression bandaging
  • Compression garments
  • Instructions in self-manual lymphatic drainage and self-bandaging
  • Individualized exercise programs, as needed

Scheduling lymphedema services at NCH:

Lymphedema services are provided at two convenient locations in Arlington Heights and Buffalo Grove. Please speak with your doctor to see if this program is right for you. A physician’s order is needed to schedule an appointment. Call Outpatient Scheduling at 847.618.7400 (press 1 and then press 5 for Occupational Therapy).

Lymphedema support and educational services:

  • Oncology social worker, 847.618.6914
  • Breast Program Manager, 847.618.7431

Feel confident in your breast care. Get your mammograms and breast cancer care from some of the best doctors in Chicago, at NCH. Find one now.

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Last Updated 06/25/2009