Breast Cancer Review
Recurrance of Breast Cancer

One of the tools a woman can use against breast cancer recurrence is compliance with her doctor’s follow-up guidelines. These will certainly include continuation of monthly breast self-examinations, screening mammograms (usually once per year), and scheduled appointments with the physician, which may be as often as every three months at first. At these appointments, he will perform a breast exam, discuss possible symptoms and order lab work or imaging tests he may feel are indicated. Most breast cancer tends to recur in the first two to five years after initial treatment. Breast cancer recurrence can occur in the same breast previously treated or it can recur in the other breast or in another part of the body, most often the lymph nodes, lungs, liver or bones (still called breast cancer).

There are several factors related to the first breast tumor that can influence the probability of recurrence: tumor size, prior involvement of lymph nodes, histologic grade (high number of abnormal cells in cancerous tissue), hormone receptors (presence of estrogen receptors in cancer cells; can be favorable), nuclear grade (refers to rate of division of cancer cells; faster growing not favorable), oncogene presence (promotes abnormal changes in cells; may increase recurrence). During monthly breast self-exams, women should use the recommended guidelines for technique and report any changes in the previously treated breast or other breast.

If a new area of concern becomes apparent in the previously treated breast and it turns out to be a breast cancer recurrence, treatment will depend on how the prior involvement was handled. If there was a lumpectomy and radiation, the surgeon may want to perform a mastectomy since radiation was most likely used on that same tissue. If there was a mastectomy done, the tumor will be removed and followed with radiation. In both instances, chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy will be prescribed.

When cancer is found in the other breast, the new breast cancer recurrence may be of a type entirely different from the first. After tests and staging are complete, the patient’s doctors will recommend a treatment plan, with probably a lumpectomy or mastectomy and chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy.

If the cancer is a metastasis into a distant area of the body, such as bones, lungs, brain or other organs, the treatment will involve chemotherapy or hormonal therapy or both together. In order to relieve other unfavorable symptoms of the patient, radiation may be performed; or the need for more surgery may be recommended at the new site. Immunotherapy may be used alone or with chemotherapy for certain patients and can generally be started after chemotherapy or hormonal therapy is no longer effective.

Janet Brown is a medical writer and graduate of Loyola University New Orleans. Her personal experiences with breast cancer have drawn her to her current work developing breast cancer patient education and awareness materials. She currently lives in Georgia.

Breast Cancer Resources

American Cancer Society

People Living With Cancer

United States National Library of Medicine

National Breast Cancer Foundation

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

Health Coverage from Health Insurance .org

WebMD Health

Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation

National Cancer Institute

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Y-ME National Breast Cancer Foundation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Women’s Information Network Against Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Cancer News On the Net

Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition

Mothers Supporting Daughters With Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Online

National Breast Cancer Coalition

Breast Cancer Fund

Breast Cancer Action

Breast Cancer Care

Breast Cancer Campaign

Cancer BACUP

Canadian Breast Cancer Network

Breast Cancer Society of Canada

Breast Cancer Action – Ottawa

Info Breast Cancer

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

National Breast Cancer Centre

National Breast Cancer Foundation

New South Wales Breast Cancer Institute

Breast Cancer Stages
Known Risk Factors
Breast Cancer Survival
Recurrence Information
Breast Cancer Metastasis
Detection and Diagnosis
Male Breast Cancer

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