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After Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

This information explains what will happen after you complete chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Most people are relieved when they finish chemotherapy. However, you may also find it difficult. For months, you have seen your doctor and nurse very often. They could answer your questions and reassure you at each visit. Now, you won't see them every week, but you can always call if you have questions. Some of your questions may be about lingering side effects. Many side effects will go away soon after chemotherapy is done. Others may take weeks or months to go away.

The following information is a guide for what to expect.

Blood Counts

Your blood counts will go down after your last dose of chemotherapy, but should begin to return to normal in about 10 to 14 days.

Hair Loss

If you lost your hair, it may already have started to grow back. It may be a different color or texture. It may be curly or straight. These changes are normal.

Neuropathy

Neuropathy is numbness or tingling in your hands and feet. It can take up to a year to fully go away. Most patients say that it gets better 1 to 2 months after chemotherapy. It will happen very gradually.

Nausea, Vomiting, and Loss of Appetite

These symptoms should go away 2 to 3 weeks.

Fatigue

Your fatigue should start to get better, but it may take a while. Try to walk each day to build up your strength. Radiation can also make you feel tired. If you will have radiation, your energy will take longer to return.

Follow-up Care

You will see your doctor about  every 6 months for the next 5 years. You may see your doctor more often or less. If you are worried or have questions, you can call your doctor's office at any time. Just because you have finished chemotherapy, it does not mean that you are “on your own.” Your doctor and nurses will continue to care for you in the years to come. At each visit, your medical team will ask about any problems. You will have an exam and have blood drawn to see how your organs are working. It may also be tested for tumor markers, which are protein levels in the blood. They can give information about whether or not cancer is growing.

Please follow up with your primary care provider. He or she should perform or prescribe your routine health care. This includes blood pressure checks, cholesterol monitoring, and standard lab work. It is important that your doctors at MSKCC have any  information about your health. Please give us your primary care provider's contact number.

After about 5 years, your care may be transferred to a survivorship nurse practitioner (SNP). An SNP is a member of the MSKCC Breast Cancer team and works closely with your doctor. As your needs decrease, your follow-up care may be transferred from MSKCC to your local physician. The timing for this depends on your particular breast cancer and your treatment. It usually occurs about 10 years after treatment.