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Once you have completed your treatment, you have gone through a number of physical and emotional changes and are probably ready to get on with the rest of your life. However, you should be aware of your continuing need for follow-up care. It is important for you to return to your surgeon for scheduled examinations, continue to practice breast self-examination, and be aware of the signs of a possible recurrence.
Breast cancer is a disease that may recur. Recurrent breast cancer can be successfully treated if it is detected early. Recurrences happen to approximately 10% of women who have had breast cancer. Any surgery leaves some residual breast cells, and any of these cells can be malignant. Sixty percent of all recurrences appear within the first 3 years after the initial treatment, 20 percent within the next 2 years, and 20 percent in later years. As a result, you should continue to be checked by your doctor as often as recommended.
Do not live in constant fear of a recurrence, but be aware that it can happen. As a cancer survivor you will gradually learn to trust your body again. Even though you should be careful to observe and to report any symptoms of recurrent disease to your doctor, do not let yourself become obsessed with finding a new cancer. Each year that passes without evidence of cancer substantially improves the chances that you are cured.
The real hope for the future in regards to breast cancer is in earlier detection. Cancer specialists all over the world are improving diagnostic techniques, learning more about the nature of "early" cancer, and developing more effective combinations of treatments. The public and medical profession must be alerted to the need for earlier detection by better identification of those women at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
More knowledge is considered a first step to help save more lives and to help lessen the fear of breast cancer. In addition to more knowledge, the key to saving more lives is earlier detection and treatment.
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