Follow-up care for breast cancer in men refers to the after-treatment protocols conducted by the healthcare team to look after any recurrence, manage the side effects, and monitor the patients’ overall health. Both medical and physical examinations are included in the follow-up care of breast tumor in men. Watching the recurrence of breast cancer is seen in test reports of follow-up care. The symptoms due to the long term effects of radiation therapy are treated with medications. The doctor will propose checks and testing to check for late effects based on the patient’s breast cancer treatment symptoms. Managing the side effects while receiving treatment is a critical follow-up care approach. Personalizing the follow-up care plan is essential for men with breast cancer conducted by the medical care team. Effective communication with the doctor regarding the long term effects of all the treatments will be effective in the future.
Follow-up Care for Breast Cancer in Men
Care for a cancer patient does not end with the end of active treatment that was going on. Even after that, the health care team looks after the cancer recurrence, managing the side effects developed due to the treatment and monitoring your overall health. It is called follow up care.
Your follow-up care includes medical tests, physical examination or both.
Doctors usually keep track of your recovery in the months and years ahead.
Cancer rehabilitation is usually recommended, and this could mean any of a wide range of services, such as physical therapy, career counselling, pain management, nutritional planning, and emotional counselling 1.
Watching for recurrence
One of the things to take care of after cancer treatment is recurrence. Cancer recurrence happens when a few cancerous cells remain even after treatment; they again grow until they show up any signs or symptoms or are seen in test reports.
Scan-xiety is often used for the patient or the family’s stress before the follow-up tests.
Breast cancer can return to the breast or other body areas. Typically, a recurrence is found when a person has an abnormal finding or new symptoms on physical examination. The symptoms depend on where cancer has recurred and may include-
- Headaches, seizures, or dizziness
- Bone pain or fractures
- A lump under the arm or along the chest wall
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain or yellowing of the skin and eyes called jaundice
- Shortness of breath, chronic coughing, or trouble breathing
- Extreme tiredness
- Feeling generally unwell
Managing long-term and late side effects
Most people encounter different side effects while receiving treatment. But in some patients, side effects linger beyond the treatment duration. These are the long term side effects.
Late side effects can develop after months or even after years of treatment.
- Long-term effects of surgery. After surgery for breast cancer, the chest may be scarred and have a different appearance than before surgery. If lymph nodes were removed as part of the surgery or affected during treatment, swelling called lymphedema might occur in the arm or chest wall, even many years after treatment. This is a life-long risk for survivors.
- Long-term effects of radiation therapy. Some patients experience breathlessness, a dry cough, or chest pain 2 to 3 months after radiation therapy. The treatment can cause swelling and thickening or hardening of the lungs, called fibrosis. These symptoms may appear similar to the symptoms of pneumonia but don’t go with antibiotics. The symptoms can be treated with steroids. Most patients fully recover with treatment. Talk to the doctor if you develop any new symptoms after radiation therapy or if the side effects are not going away.
- Long-term effects of trastuzumab or chemotherapy –Patients who received trastuzumab or certain types of chemotherapy called anthracyclines can be at risk of heart problems. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to check for heart problems. Patients treated with chemotherapy also risk other long-term side effects, such as chemobrain, fatigue, permanent tingling and numbness of the fingers and toes, and weight gain.
- Long-term effects of hormonal therapy – Patients who take hormonal therapy can have hot flashes and mood changes for many years. Additionally, AIs can sometimes cause pains, aches and stiffness during treatment. Some treatments can cause bone weakness and increase the chances of bone fracture. Talk to the doctor about what you can do to manage these symptoms if you experience them.
Keeping personal health records
Along with your doctor, you should develop a personalized follow-up care plan. Some patients, after the treatment, continue to see their oncologist, while others go back to the care of their family/primary care doctor. This usually depends on various factors, including the type and stage of cancer, side effects, health insurance rules, personal preferences, beliefs and expectations 2.
- 1.Ruddy K, Ferzoco R. Optimal delivery of male breast cancer follow-up care: improving outcomes. BCTT. Published online November 2015:371. doi:10.2147/bctt.s75630
- 2.Kiluk JV, Lee MC, Park CK, et al. Male Breast Cancer: Management and Follow-up Recommendations. The Breast Journal. Published online August 29, 2011:503-509. doi:10.1111/j.1524-4741.2011.01148.x