Recurrent Breast Cancer

What is Recurrent Breast Cancer?

Recurrent Breast Cancer is the reappearance of breast cancer after completing preliminary treatments. It most often occurs within two years of the first diagnosis, but it can happen at any time. The chances of recurrence go down with each passing year, but it is always a possibility.

Cancerous cells can be missed, and radiation, chemotherapy and other treatment methods are not always successful.Remaining cells can grow, spread and recur at any time and in any area of the body. They can also remain dormant for many years. Treatment options are available along with methods to lower the risk of subsequent recurrence.

What are the Symptoms of Recurrent Breast Cancer?

The symptoms of recurrent breast cancer vary according to location. It can be local, meaning it recurred in the original area, regional (in nearby lymph nodes) or distant (metastatic). Metastatic recurrent breast cancer most often reappears in the liver, lungs and/or bones.

The symptoms of local recurrent breast cancer may include:

  • Breast lump or thickened skin
  • Unusual skin changes
  • Redness and/or swelling
  • Nipple excretion
  • Changes in mastectomy scar
  • Painless lump(s) in the mastectomy area

The symptoms of regional recurrent breast cancer may include swollen and/or painful lymph nodes that may be:

  • Beneath an arm
  • Near the collarbone
  • In the neck

The symptoms of metastatic recurrent breast cancer may include:

  • Persistent bone pain
  • Ongoing chest pain
  • Nagging cough
  • Appetite loss
  • Head pain
  • Seizures

How is Recurrent Breast Cancer Treated?

After a diagnosis of recurrent breast cancer is confirmed through imaging and tissue biopsies, treatment will depend on many factors including the location of cancerous cells.

Treatment for local recurrent breast cancer may include:

  • Mastectomy
  • Lymph node removal
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Hormone therapy

Treatment for regional recurrent breast cancer may include:

  • Surgical removal of cancerous tissue
  • Surgical removal of lymph nodes
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Hormone therapy

Treatment for metastatic recurrent breast cancer depends on the new location of the cancer as well as many other factors. The objective is to prolong life while easing cancer and treatment symptoms. The treatment plan may include:

  • Surgery
  • Targeted therapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Strength-building bone medications

No matter the type of recurrent breast cancer, it is of the utmost importance to find sources of support. Family, friends, support groups and faith can help to build and maintain emotional strength.

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Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
August 22, 2017