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Diagnosis and Treatment

Dear Iris: Puzzled About PET Scans

Dear Iris,

I just finished my treatment for breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy and radiation, and now my doctor put me on antiestrogen therapy. I requested to have a PET scan every 6 months, but my doctor says that is not recommended; is my doctor right? Do I need any special blood work?


Dear V, 

From your description, it sounds like your cancer was found and treated within just the breast area. For early-stage breast cancer, additional PET scans haven't been shown to improve survival rates, so annual PET or CT/Bone scans aren't typically beneficial. 

However, regular breast screenings are crucial. Since you have breast tissue remaining, annual mammograms are necessary. Your doctor might also suggest an annual breast MRI, alternating with mammograms every six months, based on factors like your cancer history, family history, age, breast density, and genetic test results. 

Regular check-ups at your oncology office are advised for at least 5 years, though this may vary depending on your diagnosis and anti-estrogen therapy duration. It's also important to perform monthly self-exams of both breasts and promptly report any new symptoms or changes. 

Requesting a Survivorship Care Plan from your doctor could also be beneficial.    A Survivorship Care Plan would typically include:  

  • Summary of your diagnosis and treatment 

  • Recommended schedule for your follow-up appointments and screenings 

  • A list of other recommended tests (such as bone density exams etc.) 

  • Possible side effects of your treatment- what to watch for and what to report 

This care plan serves as a valuable tool in your continued health, offering peace of mind and a structured approach to post-treatment care.

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Lindsay Boudinot, RN, BSN, OCN

Senior Oncology Nurse

Iris Oncology

Lindsay Boudinot began her career as an emergency room nurse working in a level one trauma center in St. Louis, later transitioning into a breast cancer nurse navigator. In this role, she was able to work with patients from diagnosis, through treatment and into survivorship. Lindsay’s passion is empowering patients with knowledge and understanding of their cancer, treatment, resources, and side effect management techniques so that they can live their best lives possible despite difficult circumstances.

This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.