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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Checking for Breast Cancer Recurrence

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What Are the Risk Factors for a Breast Cancer Recurrence?

These things may affect the chance of your breast cancer coming back:

  • Tumor size. The larger the tumor was, the greater the chance of recurrence.
  • Cancer spread. If your breast cancer had spread to your lymph nodes, the more lymph nodes that had cancer cells, the higher your risk of recurrence. Your risk is also higher if cancer cells were found in the lymph vessels or blood vessels of your breast.
  • Hormone receptors . About two-thirds of all breast cancers have receptors for estrogen (called ER+) or progesterone (PR+) or both types.
  • HER2. This gene triggers the growth of cancer cells.
  • Histologic grade. This term refers to how much the tumor cells resemble normal cells when viewed under the microscope. The higher the histologic grade, the greater the chance of recurrence.
  • Nuclear grade. This is the rate at which cancer cells in the tumor divide to form more cells. Cancer cells with a high nuclear grade are usually more aggressive (faster growing).


What is the Treatment for Breast Cancer Recurrence?

The type of treatment you get for local breast cancer recurrences depends on the type of treatment you got at first. If you had a lumpectomy, local recurrence is usually treated with a mastectomy. If you had a mastectomy, recurrence near the mastectomy site is treated by removing the tumor if possible, usually followed by radiation.

In either case, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation may be used after surgery. Sometimes a combination is used.

If breast cancer is found in the other breast, it may be a new tumor unrelated to the first breast cancer. This would be treated like a new case of breast cancer. You would get either a lumpectomy or mastectomy, followed by more treatments if necessary.

If the cancer comes back in another part of the body, such as the bones, lungs, liver, or brain, you may get surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination. It depends on your individual case.

Immunotherapy with trastuzumab (Herceptin) alone or with chemotherapy may be recommended for women whose cancer cells have high levels of the HER2 protein. Pertuzumab (Perjeta), ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla), or  lapatinib (Tykerb) may be used, as well.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 07, 2015
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