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Treating Recurrent Breast Cancer

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    Being at "high" risk for being diagnosed with breast cancer is different than being at high risk for a recurrence of breast cancer.

    Research shows breast cancer is more likely to come back after treatment in women who had:

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    Breast cancer can recur or come back in three ways:

    • The cancer can return at the original site. This is called a local recurrence.
    • The cancer can recur nearby, such as in the chest. This is called a regional recurrence.
    • The cancer can spread to a distant location in the body, such as lymph nodes, bone marrow, or lungs. This is called a distant recurrence, or a metastasis.

    Your doctor will order more tests to see if the breast cancer has spread, beginning with a physical exam and often a biopsy. The doctor is checking to see if cancer is present and, if so, if it is a recurrence of the same type of cancer or a completely new cancer (which is called a second primary cancer.)

    If it is a recurrence, additional tests may include a bone scan, X-rays including CT scan, an MRI, blood tests, and PET scan.

    Treatment will depend on whether the recurrence is local, regional, or distant.

    • Local recurrence can be treated with a mastectomy if a lumpectomy was originally performed or radiation if a mastectomy has been performed.
    • Regional breast recurrence is rare. Treatment may include a combination of surgery, medication, and radiation.
    • Treating a distant recurrence of breast cancer that has spread (called metastastic) can include:

    Before you begin treatment for breast cancer recurrence, print out these Questions to Ask your specialists so you can better understand your care.

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