Local And Regional Recurrence
Breast cancer that comes back in the treated breast, chest or scar is called a local recurrence. Having a local recurrence does not mean the cancer has spread.
Breast cancer that comes back in the lymph nodes in the armpit, close to the breast bone, or lower neck, is called a regional recurrence. If cancer cells are blocking the lymph nodes in the armpit, fluid can build up in the arm and cause lymphoedema.
How Will My Prognosis Affect My Treatment
Following surgery or radiation, your treatment team will determine the likelihood that the cancer will recur outside the breast. This team usually includes a medical oncologist, a specialist trained in using medicines to treat breast cancer. The medical oncologist, who works with your surgeon, may advise the use of tamoxifen or possibly chemotherapy. These treatments are used in addition to, but not in place of, local breast cancer treatment with surgery and/or radiation therapy.
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Categories Of Sites Of Invasive Relapse
All first reoccurring breast cancer events were classified according to site as follows: local recurrences confined to the ipsilateral chest wall, including mastectomy scar regional relapses, including ipsilateral axillary, supraclavicular, and internal mammary lymph node metastases and distant metastases, including soft tissue or nodal metastases in distant sites, bone metastases, and visceral metastases in all other organs or diffuse intra-abdominal metastases. Other first events included invasive contralateral breast cancer, second nonbreast cancer malignancies, and deaths without malignancies. Any site was considered to be a component of a first event if diagnosed within a 2-month timeframe, with first site of breast cancer recurrence specified hierarchically according to worst prognosis: viscera, bone, distant nodes or soft tissue, regional, contralateral breast, and local.
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Treatment For Breast Cancer Recurrence
If your care team thinks you might have a cancer recurrence, theyll recommend diagnostic tests, like lab tests, imaging or biopsies, both to be sure the cancer has come back and to get more information to guide your treatment.
Treatment options depend on where the cancer has recurred and what breast cancer treatment youve had before:
- Local recurrence is likely to be treated surgically first with a mastectomy if you didnt have one already or a surgical removal of the tumor if you did. After surgery, breast cancer chemotherapy and radiation are commonly used, as well as hormone therapy or targeted therapy if your kind of cancer will respond to one or both of them.
- Regional recurrence is also typically treated first with surgery to remove affected lymph nodes. After the surgery, youll likely have radiation and possibly chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy, too.
- Distant recurrence is mainly treated with drug therapychemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy for breast cancer or a combination of these. Breast cancer surgery and/or radiation might be used, too, but only in cases where the aim is relieving symptoms.
Youve Been Diagnosed With Breast Cancer How Soon Do You Need Treatment
Timely surgery for breast cancer is obviously better than delaying surgery, but how long can a patient safely wait for surgery once diagnosed. Because a randomized controlled clinical trial to answer this question would be unethical, this has been a difficult question to answer. Fortunately, a new study provides an estimate of how much of a delay it takes before outcomes start to suffer.
A new year is upon us yet again, and Science-Based Medicine has been in existence for eight years now. It seems only yesterday that Steve Novella approached me to ask me to be a contributor. Our part-serious, part-facetious predictions for 2016 notwithstanding, one thing about 2016 is certain: I will almost certainly encounter some form of cancer quackery or other and deconstruct it, probably multiple forms. In any case, a topic Ive been meaning to write about is based on a couple of studies that came out three weeks ago that illustrate why, even if a patient ultimately comes around to science-based treatment of his cancer, the delay due to seeking out unscientific treatments can have real consequences.
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Stage 1 Or 2 Early Breast Cancer
Stage 1 and 2 breast cancer refers to invasive breast cancer that is contained within the breast, and may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit. These stages are also known as early stage breast cancer.
At Stage 1 and 2, some cancer cells may have spread outside the breast and armpit area, but at this stage these cannot be detected.
The Myth And Stigma Of The 5
Many people still believe that breast cancer, even hormone-positive disease, is essentially cured after five years this can lead to misunderstandings in families. Loved ones who donât understand late recurrence may downplay your feelings, or criticize you when you think âbrain tumorâ each time you get a headache.
Until information on late recurrence becomes more widely known, and even though itâs frustrating, you may need to educate loved ones about the risk, and why you should be concerned when you develop new or unexplained symptoms.
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Circulating Tumor Cells At 5 Years Post
In addition, liquid biopsy for the presence of circulating tumor cells at five years post-diagnosis may also help predict late recurrence.
In a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association , women who had cancer cells in their blood five years after diagnosis were roughly 13 times more likely to experience a recurrence as those who did not. The finding was significant only for women who had estrogen receptor-positive tumors, and none of the women who had circulating tumor cells in their blood but estrogen receptor-negative tumors experienced a recurrence.
Using liquid biopsies to predict recurrence is still in the investigational stage and not currently used when making decisions on whether or not hormonal therapy should be continued beyond five years.
That said, these findings, along with molecular subtyping offers hopes that doctors will be better able to predict who should receive extended hormonal therapy in the future.
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Understanding Breast Cancer Recurrence
Australia has one of the best survival rates of breast cancer in the world, with 91% of women surviving at least five years past their diagnosis. New Zealand is not far behind with 88% of women surviving five years past their first diagnosis.
This information may come as a relief for those diagnosed with early stages of the disease, as many recurrences appear within five years after the initial treatment, the exception being ER positive breast cancer, as many recurrences will occur after the first five years as within the first five years. But the fear of recurrence , is a common issue faced by women who have had early stage breast cancer. The chance of recurrence is not the same for all breast cancer patients. Understanding the risk of recurrence for your type of breast cancer may help to ease some anxiety.
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Intrinsic Subtypes And Late Recurrence
A number of different methods have been evaluated for the ability to predict late recurrence. Some of these include:
Higher expression of estrogen-responsive genes: A 2018 study found that people with ER+/HER2 negative breast cancers who had higher expression of estrogen-responsive genes and were not treated with extended hormonal therapy had a high risk of recurrence after five years.
Multigene assays: Several multigene assays may help predict late recurrence, but using this information to figure out when to extend hormonal therapy requires more research. A 2018 evaluation of an 18-gene, 10-year signature found that the information regarding prognosis was similar to other tests including Oncotype DX Recurrence Score, Prosigna PAM50 risk of recurrence score, Breast Cancer Index and IHC4.
What Are The Signs Of Breast Cancer Recurrence
If you have a local recurrence or new primary breast cancer, you may find symptoms similar to an initial breast cancer. This includes:
- A new lump in the breast, armpit area or around the collarbone
- A change in breast size or shape
- Changes to the nipple, such as sores or crusting, an ulcer or inverted nipple
- Clear or bloody nipple discharge
- Changes to the skin including redness, puckering or dimpling
- Breast tenderness or pain
If your breast cancer has spread to other parts to the body, known as distant recurrence, there are a number of possible symptoms, including:
- Unexpected weight loss or change in appetite
- Severe or ongoing headaches
However, symptoms will vary depending on where the secondary cancer presents, and some primary and secondary cancers may not present any obvious symptoms. Sometimes recurrence is identified on a scan or blood test that was done for a reason other than breast cancer.
If you have any health concerns or symptoms that are new or persistent, speak with you GP or treating physician.
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Stage Ia & Ib Treatment Options
Stage I describes invasive breast cancer . Stage I is divided into subcategories known as IA and IB.
In general, stage IA describes invasive breast cancer in which:
- the tumor measures up to 2 centimeters and
- the cancer has not spread outside the breast no lymph nodes are involved
In general, stage IB describes invasive breast cancer in which:
- there is no tumor in the breast instead, small groups of cancer cells larger than 0.2 millimeter but not larger than 2 mm are found in the lymph nodes or
- there is a tumor in the breast that is no larger than 2 cm, and there are small groups of cancer cells larger than 0.2 mm but not larger than 2 mm in the lymph nodes
Still, if the cancer is estrogen-receptor-positive or progesterone-receptor-positive, it is likely to be classified as stage IA.
Recurrence Can Mean Different Things
For some women, a recurrence can be metastatic â the cancer has come back not in the breast , but elsewhere in the body as well. Thatâs a much more serious situation . Or, it may have come back much as the first time you were diagnosed, as a ânewâ cancer, and is treated as such.
Be aware that many people talk about recurrence and metastasis in the same breath. But they are not the same thing. If you have had a local recurrence, when the cancer remains confined to your breast, the good news is that your prognosis is not necessarily any worse than it was the first time.
âWhether itâs a recurrence of the original cancer or a new primary cancer in the other breast, in both cases we assume weâre dealing with a curable situation, and we attempt to think about those patients as we would anyone with a new presentation,â says Clifford Hudis, MD, chief of the Breast Cancer Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
If, for example, you finished treatment for breast cancer seven or eight years ago, any recurrence or new cancer would be treated largely as an entirely new problem.
âThat woman will not only undergo surgery, but may well receive additional therapy that doesnât ignore the fact that she had a previous cancer, but recognizes that seven years out, her prognosis from the first cancer is excellent,â says Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
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Local Recurrence After Lumpectomy
Local recurrence after lumpectomy can most often be treated successfully.
Treatment generally includes surgery, usually a mastectomy. Radiation therapy may be given if it wasnt part of the initial breast cancer treatment.
Treatment may also include chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or HER2-targeted therapy.
What Women Can Do Themselves
There are some things women can do themselves to lower their risk of late recurrence:
- Regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of death from breast cancer as well as death from all causes.
- It’s important for everyone to have their vitamin D level tested, although the role of vitamin D is still uncertain. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with bone loss, a concern for most people who have coped with breast cancer.
- Losing weight if you are overweight, or maintaining a healthy weight is important as well.
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Prognosis Of Late Vs Early Cancer Recurrence
Late recurrence is associated with a better prognosis than early recurrence in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. A 2018 study in Clinical Breast Cancer found that survival after recurrence was significantly longer in people with a late versus early recurrence . In this study, the lungs were the most common site of late distant recurrence.
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
You may want to ask your provider:
- What type of breast cancer recurrence do I have?
- Has the cancer spread outside the breast?
- What stage is the breast cancer?
- What is the best treatment for this type of breast cancer?
- What are the treatment risks and side effects?
- Should I look out for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Most breast cancer recurrences respond well to treatments. You may be able to try new drugs or combination therapies in development in clinical trials. Your healthcare provider can discuss the best treatment option based on your unique situation.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/24/2021.
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Treatment For Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Typically, treatment for stage 4 breast cancer includes a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy .
Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the protein that allows cancer cells to grow and this type of therapy may also be an option for people with stage 4 breast cancer.
Sometimes, surgeons will operate to try and remove tumors though this is not usually the first option for treatment.
Doctors, however, may recommend surgery to help with pain relief by treating some of the issues that may develop as a result of having stage 4 breast cancer. These include spinal cord compression, removing single masses caused by metastasis, and fixing any broken bones.
A doctor may also prescribe medication to treat related symptoms such as:
- antidepressants to help mood
- anticonvulsants to manage pain or neurologic conditions
- local anesthetics to manage pain
New treatments and therapies are emerging all the time, and anyone who has breast cancer at any stage can volunteer to try out these new treatments. People considering this should talk to their doctor to see whether any trials are available in their area.
Trials for a new treatment called immunotherapy are currently taking place. Immunotherapy works by raising the bodys natural ability to fight off cancer and has fewer side effects than chemotherapy.
As well as numbers, a zero or an X often follow the letters T, N, and M. According to the AJCC, the meanings are as follows:
Introduction To Breast Cancer Recurrence
Breast cancer can recur at any time, but most recurrences occur in the first three to five years after initial treatment. Breast cancer can come back as a local recurrence or as a distant recurrence somewhere else in the body. The most common sites of recurrence include the lymph nodes, the bones, liver, or lungs.
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What Is The Risk For Breast Cancer Recurrence
The risk of recurrence depends on the type of breast cancer and its stage. Timing matters, too: The highest risk of recurrence for breast cancer patients is during the first few years after treatment.
At the Johns Hopkins Breast Center, our team of breast cancer specialists monitors patients who are at risk of recurrence, Lange explains. The follow-up schedule depends on the stage of cancer, what kind of treatment has been received and prognostic factors. The risk of recurrence decreases as time goes on, but never gets down to zero.
How Do I Know There Is A Recurrence
If youve been treated for breast cancer, you should continue to practice breast self-examination, checking both the treated area and your other breast each month. You should report any changes to your doctor right away. Breast changes that might indicate a recurrence include:
- An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast
- Lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle
- A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast
- A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea
- A marble-like area under the skin
- A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple, including skin that is dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed
- Bloody or clear fluid discharge from the nipples
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple
In addition to performing monthly breast self-exams, keep your scheduled follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider. During these appointments, your healthcare provider will perform a breast exam, order lab or imaging tests as needed, and ask you about any symptoms you might have. Initially, these follow-up appointments may be scheduled every three to four months. The longer you are cancer-free, the less often you will need to see your healthcare provider. Continue to follow your healthcare providers recommendations on screening mammograms .
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What Is My Prognosis
This is a very common question that isnt always easy to answer. There are many factors involved in working out prognosis. Remember that a prognosis is just a figure at the point at which you receive it. For most people, the prognosis gets better with time.
Sometimes we use a five-year figure because we know that if cancer comes back, most of the time it comes back within five years. If the cancer has not come back within five years, then the chance of it coming back within ten years is quite low, and if it does not come back within ten years, then you have an almost normal life expectancy.
Its a bit like buying a second hand car. You dont really know how long its going to last, but if it lasts year after year without breaking down, then the car starts to look more and more reliable to make that long trip.
Working out prognosis can be difficult.