When breast cancer comes back, it can be devastating news. The battle continues, however, and a complete cure is still possible.
Recurrence is often diagnosed after a breast cancer survivor notices changes in the breast, or a new lump is found following a breast self-exam and reported to a family doctor or oncologist. In most cases, breast cancer recurrence happens 3-5 years after initial treatment.
The reasons for a recurrence are varied, and may involve cancer cells that were were initially overlooked, or have lied dormant since the original surgery. Statistics also show that the more lymph nodes with cancer involved at the time of original treatment, the higher the chances of breast cancer returning.
Treating breast cancer recurrence
Normally, treatment of a new tumor in the other breast is pretty straightforward - initiating a new round of surgery, either a lumpectomy or mastectomy and/or radiation, chemotherapy, or hormonal therapy where indicated.
If recurrence occurs in the same region as the original breast tumor, it is removed whenever possible, since radiation therapy cannot be delivered to the same area twice. If the original treatment was a lumpectomy, a complete mastectomy may be recommended to keep the cancer from recurring yet again.
In other cases, "distance recurrence" is when breast cancer cells metastasize, or travel to other parts of the body. Systemic treatment is usually called for in this case and may include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation. (Note: although it has spread to another part of the body, it’s still considered and treated as breast cancer.)
Distance recurrence is also known as stage IV breast cancer, and while treatment does not cure the disease it can provide good quality of life for several years.
For more information on breast cancer recurrence, check out related resources below with explanations on how it happens, what it means, and discussions on effective treatments.
Cancer Recurrence Information on MedicineNet.com
Focusing on the subject with explanations on diseases
and conditions related to breast cancer recurrence, with related news & feature
Breast Cancer Recurrence
Guide to what to expect from SusanLoveMD.org with a discussion on effective treatments and a very helpful FAQ.