Breast cancer that returns after treatments is known as recurrent breast cancer. Although the initial treatment is intended to eliminate all cancer cells, some may have evaded treatment and survived. These cancer cells multiply undetected, leading to recurrent breast cancer.
Breast cancer may recur months or even years after the first treatment. Cancer may return in the same place or in other areas of the body.
Recurrent breast cancer is far from hopeless. Recurrent local, regional, or distant breast cancer can be managed with therapy. Even if the cure is not possible, treatment can keep the condition under control for a long time.
About recurrent breast cancer
Recurrence is the word used to describe cancer that comes back after treatment. There are several types of recurrent Breast Cancer, depending on where cancer returns in the body.
The term “recurrence” refers to the return of the same kind of breast cancer.
Symptoms of recurrent breast cancer
In local recurrence, cancer reappears in the same area as the original cancer
Local recurrence within the same breast may manifest as:
- A new lump in the breast or an irregular area of firmness
- Changes to breast skin
- An area of redness
- Nipple discharge
If a mastectomy has been done previously, local recurrence can show up as
- One or more painless nodules under or on the skin of the chest wall
- A new region of thickening near or along the mastectomy scar
A regional breast cancer recurrence means the cancer has come back in the nearby lymph nodes. This may cause a swelling
- Under your arm
- Above or near the collarbone
- In your neck
A distant recurrence means the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body , causing:
- Persistent chest, back or hip pain
- Cough and breathlessness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Severe headaches
When to see a doctor?
After your breast cancer treatment is over, your doctor will probably arrange a follow-up examination schedule for you. They will examine for symptoms or signs of recurrent breast cancer during these examinations.
You may inform your doctor of any new signs or symptoms. Take your doctor’s appointment if you discover recurring indications and symptoms that worry you.
How to prevent breast cancer from recurring?
Several strategies may be followed to decrease the risk of breast cancer recurrence, such as the following:
- Hormones: If you have a breast cancer type that is positive for hormone receptor, hormone treatment may help reduce your chance of recurrence.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy will reduce cancer recurrence, and those receiving chemotherapy will live longer.
- Radiation therapy: People who have had a breast-saving procedure for breast cancer and people who have a large tumor or inflammatory breast cancer have a reduced chance of recurrence if they have radiation treatment.
- Targeted therapy: If your cancer produces additional HER2 protein, medicines that target that protein may help reduce your chance of cancer recurrence.
- Healthy weight preservation: Keeping a healthy weight might reduce the chance of recurring breast cancer.
- Exercise: Regular workouts can lower the chance of recurrence of breast cancer.
- Eating a healthy diet: Concentrate on adding enough vegetables, fruit, and grain to your diet. If you drink alcohol, only consume one drink a day.
Treatment options for recurrent breast cancer
Your treatment options will be determined by a variety of factors, including the hormone receptor status, the size of your tumor, the kind of therapy you received earlier, and your overall health. Additionally, your doctor considers your treatment objectives and preferences.
Local recurrence treatment
Based on their initial therapy, women who have a local breast cancer recurrence have a few treatment options.
- If you had undergone a breast-conserving operation, a mastectomy will be needed to remove all breast tissue
- If mastectomy was already done, recurrences at the mastectomy site are treated by surgically removing the tumor, followed by radiation treatment.
- Following surgery and radiation therapy, patients may get targeted therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these therapies.
- Regional recurrence treatment
When breast cancer recurs in the nearby lymph nodes, it is best to remove all of them. It can be followed by area-oriented radiation. Systemic therapy (like chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or hormone therapy) may be considered after surgery.
Treatment of distant recurrence
Women with breast cancer in other organs, such as the bones, lungs, or brain, are often treated similarly to those diagnosed with stage IV cancer.
Recurrent breast cancer can be challenging to treat at times. If you are otherwise healthy, you may choose to consider participating in a clinical study evaluating a new treatment.
Many treatments exist for recurrent breast cancer. Your options may depend on where the cancer has spread. If one treatment doesn’t work or stops working, there are other options that will be recommended for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it possible to treat recurring breast cancer?
It may be harder to learn about recurrent breast cancer than to handle the initial diagnosis. But recurring breast cancer is not hopeless. Treatment may remove recurrent local, regional, or distant breast cancer. Even if the cure is not possible, treatment can control the disease for a long time.
Which kind of breast cancer has the highest risk of recurrence?
Among patients who remained recurrence-free after five years of endocrine treatment, those with initial large tumors and cancer progressed to four or more lymph nodes had the most significant risk of recurrence.
Can stress lead to a return to breast cancer?
Yes, women exposed to stress have a greater chance of recurrent breast cancer than those who are not.