Follow Up After Bilateral Mastectomy

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
Last Modified: December 13, 2011

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Question

What is the current advice on post bilateral mastectomy follow up, short term and long term (mammograms, manual palpation, mri's etc.?

Answer

Gary Freedman, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Penn , responds:

After a woman has undergone a bilateral mastectomy, the usual follow up is an examination by a heath professional twice a year and your own self-examinations monthly. There is no role for screening mammogram of a woman's chest wall, or breast reconstruction. Manual palpation will pick up most recurrences at a fairly small size - for a chest wall after mastectomy, there is little tissue between the skin and chest wall muscle for a recurrence to 'hide'. Similarly, a reconstructed implant is usually behind the pectoral muscle and recurrences can be felt in the thin layer of tissue between the skin and implant. MRI only has a role if there is a question of implant integrity, not routine screening.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat. Series, View the Life After Breast Cancer transcript.