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Breast Cancer Recurrence

Breast cancer treatment aims to eliminate all cancerous cells, however, there is always a risk of recurrence. Breast cancer recurrence occurs when undetected or new cancerous cells begin to multiply after an initial treatment has been completed. It can take months, or even years, for recurrent breast cancer to surface. While learning you have recurrent breast cancer may be discouraging, there are still many treatment options available to control the disease long-term. If you are a breast cancer survivor, you should discuss the risk of recurrence with your healthcare provider and create a post-treatment plan to maintain your health.

Areas of Breast Cancer Recurrence

  • In or near the same breast area where the cancer was originally found, referred to as local recurrence
  • In the nearby lymph nodes of the armpit or collarbone, referred to as regional recurrence
  • In another area of the body such as the lungs, liver, or bones, referred to as distant (metastatic) recurrence

Local Recurrence

Symptoms may include:

  • A lump in the breast
  • Unnaturally firm breasts
  • Red or inflamed breast skin
  • Nipple discharge
  • A painless nodule on or under the skin

Regional Recurrence

Symptoms of may include: 

  • A lump or swelling in the lymph nodes in the armpit or collarbone
  • Swelling in the arm
  • Arm, shoulder, and chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing

Distant Recurrence

Symptoms include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Severe headaches
  • Seizures

Breast Cancer Recurrence Treatment

Treatment for recurrent breast cancer depends on the specific characteristics of the cancer. Your doctor may require a series of testing, such as an ultrasound, an MRI, CT, or a PET scan to determine which treatment is right for you. Women diagnosed with local breast cancer recurrence who already went through a lumpectomy and chemotherapy may require a mastectomy. Additional radiation and hormonal therapy may be suggested as well. If breast cancer returns regionally in the lymph nodes, you may need surgery to remove them. Other targeted and radiation therapies can be used as well. Women whose breast cancer comes back in other areas of the body will require drug therapies as their main treatment, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and other targeted drugs. While metastatic cancer is considered incurable, proper treatment can slow the growth of tumors, improving symptoms and lengthening life expectancy. 

When to See A Doctor

Once your breast cancer treatment is completed, you will be required to follow up with your doctor on a regular basis. During these follow-up exams, it is important that you share any new or developing symptoms with your doctor. They will thoroughly check for any indication of cancer recurrence and test accordingly. Make an appointment with Little Silver Mammography and HerSpace today if you notice any irregular symptoms or have any concerns.