Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Breast cancer often uses different combinations of treatment.

Breast cancer often uses different combinations of treatment.
beginning of content

After breast cancer treatment

2-minute read

Most women with breast cancer have an operation as part of their treatment. Getting back to normal after surgery can take time. It is important to take things slowly and give yourself time to recover. During this time, avoid lifting things (for example, children or heavy shopping bags) and heavy housework. You may also be advised not to drive.

Some other treatments, particularly radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can make you very tired. You may need to take a break from some of your normal activities for a while. Do not be afraid to ask for practical help from family and friends.

Some younger women have to cope with early menopause brought on by treatment for cancer. Symptoms can include hot flushes, vaginal dryness and loss of sexual desire. Talk to your doctor about any symptoms you have and they will be able to help.

Other outcomes might include a breast prosthesis, which is an artificial breast worn inside your bra to replace the breast that has been removed, and a breast reconstruction (if you did not have immediate breast reconstruction carried out at the time of the surgery).

Follow-up after treatment

After your treatment has finished, you will be invited for regular check-ups, usually every 3-6 months for the 1-2 years.

If you have had early breast cancer, your healthcare team will agree a care plan with you after your treatment has finished. This plan contains the details of your follow-up. You will receive a copy of the plan, which will also be sent to your doctor.

During the check-up, your doctor will examine you and may do blood tests or X-rays to see how your cancer is responding to treatment. You should also be offered a mammogram every year for the first 5 years after your treatment.

Long-term complications

Your treatment for breast cancer may cause new problems:

  • Pain and stiffness in your arm and shoulder on the affected side, may occur after surgery and the skin in these areas may be tight.
  • Lymphoedema is a build-up of excess lymph fluid which causes swelling. This may happen if surgery or radiotherapy causes damage to the lymphatic drainage system in the armpit.

Talk to your healthcare team if you experience these or any other long-term effects of treatment.

Last reviewed: July 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

How does chemotherapy work? | Breast cancer

Chemotherapy works by killing cells that are rapidly dividing, such as cancer cells. As well as killing cancer cells, chemotherapy also kills normal cells that are rapidly dividing. However, unlike cancer cells, normal cells can repair the damage and can recover. The main areas of the body that are affected by chemotherapy are the mouth, stomach and bowel (gut), skin, hair and

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Breast-conserving surgery | Breast cancer

Breast conserving surgery may also be called a lumpectomy, complete local excision, partial mastectomy or wide local excision. Breast conserving surgery involves removing the breast cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it (called the surgical margin). Some women also have one or morelymph nodes removed from the armpit.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Breast Conserving Surgery | myVMC

Breast conserving surgery is a type of surgical treatment for early breast cancer. It refers to the removal of the breast tumour only, leaving the rest of the breast intact. Breast conserving surgery is a safe alternative to mastectomy for some women with early breast cancer.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Breast reconstruction | Breast cancer

Breast reconstruction is surgery to rebuild a breast shape after mastectomy.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Sexuality following breast cancer treatment | myVMC

Sexuality following breast cancer treatment: Breast cancer treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can have lasting physical and emotional effects on a woman and her family. The issue of sexuality following breast cancer treatment is often neglected, but can have a significant impact on a woman's quality of life.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program - Australian Government Department of Human Services

Help with the cost of an external breast prosthesis after breast cancer surgery. You can get up to a maximum of $400 for each prosthesis.

Read more on Centrelink website

Radiotherapy for early breast cancer | Breast cancer

Radiotherapy to the breastis recommended after breast conserving surgery to remove any cancer cells that may be left in the breast and to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back in the breast. Radiotherapy to the chest wallis sometimes recommended after mastectomy for women at high risk of breast cancer coming back in the chest wall.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Radiotherapy - Counterpart

Radiotherapy can be used as a part of breast cancer treatment to destroy cancer cells that may have remained after surgery.

Read more on Counterpart - Women supporting women with cancer website

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the breast. These cells can invade the breast and surrounding tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Read more on WA Health website

Mastectomy | Breast cancer

Mastectomy involves removal of the whole breast (usually including the nipple) and usually removal of one or more lymph nodes from the armpit. Mastectomy is usually recommended if the breast cancer is large compared to the size of the breast or theres more than one cancer in the breast (multifocal disease). Mastectomy may also be recommended after breast conserving surgery if:

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo