Skip to content

Breast Cancer Health Center

Select An Article

Checking for Breast Cancer Recurrence

Font Size

Every woman who has had breast cancer wonders if it will come back. For some women it does, and for others it doesn't. When breast cancer comes back, it's called recurrence.

Breast cancer can recur at any time or not at all, but most recurrences happen in the first 5 years after breast cancer treatment.

Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

About This PDQ Summary

Purpose of This Summary This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about breast cancer screening. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions. Reviewers and Updates This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Screening and Prevention Editorial...

Read the About This PDQ Summary article > >

Breast cancer can come back as a local recurrence (meaning in the treated breast or near the mastectomy scar) or somewhere else in the body. Some of the most common sites of recurrence outside the breast are the lymph nodes, bones, liver, lungs, and brain.

 

How Do I Know if There Is a Recurrence of Breast Cancer?

If you've been treated for breast cancer, you should keep doing breast self-exams, checking the treated area and your other breast each month. You should tell your doctor about any changes right away.

Also, keep getting regular mammograms.In some screening centers, three-dimensional mammograms are available in addition to traditional digital mammograms. If genetic tests show you have the BRCA mutations, you may also need an MRI of your breast. Talk to your doctor about the best screening tests for you.

Breast changes that might be a recurrence include:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that doesn’t go away after your period
  • A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast
  • 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, red, warm, or swollen
  • Blood or clear fluid coming out of a nipple

Along with monthly breast self-exams, you should go to follow-up appointments with your doctor. During these appointments, your doctor should examine your breasts, ask about any symptoms, and order lab or imaging tests if they are needed. Go over any new symptoms with your doctor right away, like pain, headaches, weight loss, lack of appetite, or anything else.

At first, your follow-up appointments may be every 3 to 4 months. The longer you are cancer-free, the less often you will need to see your doctor.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
 
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW