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What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer Recurrence

What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer Recurrence

Breast Cancer Recurrence

You may experience different signs of breast cancer recurrence depending on where the cancer forms.

Local breast cancer recurrence may cause:

  • Breast lump or bumps on or under the chest.
  • Nipple changes, such as flattening or nipple discharge.
  • Swollen skin or skin that pulls near the lumpectomy site.
  • Thickening on or near the surgical scar.
  • Unusually firm breast tissue.
  • Biopsy of the site of suspected recurrence.

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.

What Are The Types Of Breast Cancer Recurrence

If you develop cancer in the opposite, untreated breast , you receive a new breast cancer diagnosis. This isnt the same as breast cancer recurrence.

When breast cancer returns, it may be:

  • Local: Cancer returns in the same breast or chest area as the original tumor.
  • Regional: Cancer comes back near the original tumor, in lymph nodes in the armpit or collarbone area.
  • Distant: Breast cancer spreads away from the original tumor to the lungs, bones, brain or other parts of the body. This is metastatic cancer, often referred to as stage 4 breast cancer.

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Breast Cancer Prognosis And Prevention

As with any cancer, early discovery and treatment are significant variables in deciding the result. Breast cancer is readily treated and typically curable when found in the earliest stages.

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, according to the World Health Organization. Whether youre concerned about breast discomfort or tenderness, its crucial to keep informed about risk factors and warning symptoms of breast cancer.

The greatest method to fight breast cancer is early diagnosis. Talk with your doctor about when you should start breast cancer screening.

If youre afraid that your breast discomfort or tenderness might be anything severe, schedule an appointment with your doctor now. If you notice a lump in your breast consult your doctor.

What Are The Chances Of Breast Cancer Returning

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Each persons risk of breast cancer recurrence is different and depends on many factors, such as the size, type, grade and features of the cancer and whether the lymph nodes were affected.

Your treatment team can tell you more about your individual risk of recurrence if you want to know this.

The risk of breast cancer recurring is higher in the first few years and reduces as time goes on.

However, recurrence can happen even many years after treatment, which is why its important to be breast and body aware, and report any changes to your treatment team or GP.

In the UK, the number of people surviving breast cancer has risen greatly over the past decade and most people diagnosed with primary breast cancer will not have a recurrence.

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Breast Cancer Symptoms That Appear Later

The following are later indications of breast cancer:

  • an existing lump that becomes larger
  • a orange peel feel to the skin
  • low appetite retraction
  • inward twisting of the nipple
  • expansion of one breast
  • dimpling of the breast surface
  • an existing lump that gets bigger
  • Weight loss that is unintended
  • visible veins on the breast
  • swollen lymph nodes in the armpit

Its not necessary to experience one or more of these symptoms to develop breast cancer. An infection, for example, might result in nipple discharge. If you see any of these signs or symptoms, see a doctor for a thorough examination.

Are Breast Lumps Often Cancerous

Although a lump in the breast is often connected with breast cancer, most lumps arent malignant. In reality, roughly 75 percent of breast biopsies come back with a diagnosis of benign breast illness.

Common causes of benign breast lumps include:

  • breast infection
  • fibrocystic breast disease
  • fibroadenoma
  • fat necrosis
  • With fat necrosis, the tumor cant be separated from a malignant lump without a biopsy.

Even though the majority of breast lumps are caused by less serious illnesses, fresh, painless lumps are still the most prevalent indication of breast cancer.

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When To See A Doctor

After your breast cancer treatment ends, your doctor will likely create a schedule of follow-up exams for you. During follow-up exams, your doctor checks for any symptoms or signs of cancer recurrence.

You can also report any new signs or symptoms to your doctor. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.

Treatment For Local Recurrence

Breast Cancer Recurrence Treatment

Treatment for local recurrence will depend on a number of factors, including what treatments you have previously had.


If you had breast-conserving surgery then you will usually be offered a mastectomy. For some people it may be possible to repeat the wide local excision.

If you previously had a mastectomy, surgery may be possible to remove the affected areas.

Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.


Radiotherapy is usually only an option if you havent previously had radiotherapy in the same area.

The way radiotherapy is given for a recurrence is similar to how its given to someone newly diagnosed.

Radiotherapy may be offered if surgery isnt possible.

Hormone therapy

If the cancer is oestrogen receptor positive you may be offered hormone therapy.

Which treatment you are offered depends on whether you have gone through the menopause and any hormone therapy you have previously had or are currently taking.


Its not clear how much benefit chemotherapy will be to you if you have a local recurrence, but it might be offered in some cases.

If you have previously had chemotherapy then different chemotherapy drugs may be used.

Targeted therapy

The most widely used targeted therapies are for HER2 positive breast cancer.

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Why Werent These Escaping Cells Identified The First Time The Cancer Was Treated

Although scans of the body can detect if there is obvious spread to these other organs, for women with early stage breast cancer there rarely is anything that shows up on a scan. There is a limit to what scans can tell us: they wont show extremely tiny spots of cancer, and they definitely cant show us if there are individual cells circulating in the body. Neither will any blood test, or any other test for that matter. So the first time around we perform our surgery and give our treatmentschemotherapy, hormonal therapy, radiationwith the hope that if microscopic spread has already taken place, the treatments will scavenge those cells and kill them before they take up residence someplace in the body.

Unfortunately, these treatments dont work 100 percent of the time. So if cells have spread, and if the treatments we give dont affect them, the cancer cells can persist and take hold someplace, developing into metastases, or spread. This is why and how recurrence happens.

Why Cancer Comes Back

The simplest explanation is that the treatment you had before didn’t destroy all the cancer cells in your body. Even very small cells that were left behind can grow into tumors over time.

That doesn’t mean you got the wrong treatment. Cancer cells are tricky, and some can survive aggressive therapies. It only takes a few cells.

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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.

Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer Recurrence

Recurrent breast cancer

Recurrent breast cancer is the breast cancer which comes again after the treatment of the original or primary breast cancer. This is due to the survival of a few cancer cells that remain after the elimination of all the cancer cells. When these undetected cancer cells multiply it leads to recurrent breast cancer. Usually this problem occurs after the passing of a few months or years after the initial treatment is given to the patient and the problem goes away.

If the cancer comes back to the same part then it is known as local recurrence and if it spreads to other part of the body then it is known as distant recurrence. The major changes that you will observe in recurrence of breast cancer are different types of pains in the chest, formation of new lumps in the breast or chest wall ,immediate loss of weight and appetite and shortness of breath.

The signs and symptoms of breast cancer recurrence depend upon affected part. This may come up as a lump on the breast or lump on the chest wall or the surgical scar thickens. The mammography will show where the lump occurred initially and what is the location of the lump in the recurrence. Various signs that come up in breast cancer recurrence is divided into three parts. First is a local recurrence, regional recurrence and distant recurrence.

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How Can I Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence

Healthcare providers dont know why some people experience breast cancer recurrence. A recurrence isnt your fault. You didnt do anything wrong to cause it or fail to do something more to prevent it.

Certain medications may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence in people who have early stage breast cancer. For estrogen-receptive breast cancer, hormonal therapies including tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors block either the activity of estrogen or the bodys production of estrogen. Chemotherapy may also be recommended to reduce risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Early diagnosis may make it easier to treat a recurrence. Follow your healthcare providers recommendations for mammograms and other screenings. You should also perform regular breast self-exams. Get familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can see your provider quickly if you notice changes. And remember that most breast changes occur for reasons other than cancer.

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.


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Treating A Metastatic Recurrence

Many treatments exist for metastatic breast cancer. Your options will depend on where your cancer has spread. If one treatment doesn’t work or stops working, you may be able to try other treatments.

In general, the goal of treatment for metastatic breast cancer isn’t to cure the disease. Treatment may allow you to live longer and can help relieve symptoms the cancer is causing. Your doctor works to achieve a balance between controlling your symptoms while minimizing toxic effects from treatment. The aim is to help you live as well as possible for as long as possible.

Treatments may include:

Other Causes Of Breast Discomfort And Pain

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Because we commonly identify discomfort with anything wrong, when individuals experience sensitivity or pain in their breasts, they often relate it with breast cancer. Breast soreness, on the other hand, is seldom the initial indication of breast cancer. Pain may also be caused by a variety of different circumstances.

Breast discomfort, commonly known as mastalgia, may be caused by the following factors:

  • the hormonal changes brought on during menstruation
  • some contraceptive tablets

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What Is Breast Cancer Recurrence

Sometimes breast cancer can recur, or come back, in the same breast or spread elsewhere in the body.

Cancer cells from the primary tumour may remain in the body after treatment is complete.

They can sometimes be undetected in the body for some time and begin growing weeks, months or even years later.

When they start causing symptoms, this is called breast cancer recurrence.

When Breast Cancer Comes Back

Recurrence is always possible. But when the cancer comes back, where it is and how it behaves all affect the outcome.

It can happen a year after you finish treatment for breast cancer, or five, 10, even 20 years later. You find another lump, or a shadow appears on one of the mammograms you’re having much more often now. Is the cancer back?

Every woman who’s had breast cancer knows that recurrence is possible. Some may do a better job than others at keeping that worry in a tightly closed box on the other side of the room. But sometimes — such as at follow-up visits with the oncologist — it’s hard to avoid.

And sometimes, the worry proves true. After all you and your doctors did, after those scary and exhausting and painful months of treatment, the cancer is rearing its ugly head again.

How often does breast cancer recur? That depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Size of the original tumor
  • Number of lymph nodes involved, if any
  • How aggressive the cancer was
  • How well you responded to your first course of treatment

For example, if your original tumor was less than 1 centimeter and had not spread to the lymph nodes, the chance of the cancer’s returning may be only 5%. If you had a large tumor with multiple lymph nodes involved, the odds that it will in time recur can be significantly higher — 50% or greater for some women.

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What Are The Complications Of Breast Cancer Recurrence

Breast cancer that comes back can be harder to treat. The same therapy isnt always effective again. Tumors can develop a tolerance to certain treatments like chemotherapy. Your healthcare provider will try other therapies. You may be able to try drugs under development in clinical trials.

If breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, your healthcare providers still treat it like breast cancer. For instance, breast cancer cells that move to the lungs cause breast cancer in the lungs not lung cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is more difficult to treat than cancer in only one part of the body.

You may feel stressed, depressed or anxious. A mental health counselor and support groups can help.

How Is A Local Recurrence After Lumpectomy Diagnosed

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After a diagnosis of early stage breast cancer, any remaining breast tissue should be evaluated annually with scans .

Most local recurrences within the breast after lumpectomy are detected on routine annual breast imaging, which usually takes the form of mammography and ultrasound, and on occasions MRI.

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

Once a local recurrence has been diagnosed, we do tests to see whether there are signs of cancer elsewhere in the body. These may include a chest X-ray, CT scan, bone scan or PET scan, and blood tests , then we have to figure out how best to treat the tumour in the breast. Usually in these cases we do a mastectomy, as the prior less drastic surgery and radiation didnt take care of it.

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Preparing For An Appointment

If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with your primary care doctor or family doctor.

Your doctor can recommend the necessary tests and procedures to confirm a diagnosis of recurrent cancer. Then you’ll likely be referred to a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer .

Breast Cancer Recurrence Signs And Symptoms

Breast cancer may recur after first therapy, even if it was successfully treated the first time. This is referred to as recurrence. When a tiny percentage of cells survive the first therapy, recurrence occurs.

A recurrence in the same location as the initial breast cancer has symptoms that are quite similar to those of the first breast cancer. They are as follows:

  • a new breast lump
  • a new thickening along the mastectomy scar
  • changes to the nipple
  • redness or swelling of the breast

If breast cancer returns regionally, it suggests cancer has returned to the lymph nodes or a location close to but not identical to the initial tumor. The signs and symptoms may vary somewhat.

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