This topic provides
information about breast cancer that has spread or come back after treatment.
If you are looking for information about first-time diagnosis and treatment of
breast cancer, see the topic
Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of
control in one or both breasts.
- Metastatic breast cancer means that cancer has spread to
other parts of the body.
- Recurrent breast cancer means that cancer has come back in or near the
original site or in another part of the body.
most women who have had breast cancer, their greatest fear is that the cancer
will come back or spread. Finding out that this has happened can turn your world
upside down. But there is hope. Some recurrent
breast cancers can be successfully treated. Other recurrent breast cancers and metastatic breast cancer usually can't be cured. But with treatment, some women live for many years.
Even with the best treatment, cancer can come back. If just a few cancer cells remain in your body after your initial treatment, those cells can spread through
the blood or
lymph system and grow. This may happen from a few
months to many years after the first diagnosis.
If your breast
cancer has come back, you may second-guess your previous
treatment choices. But the fact is, there is no guarantee with any
treatment. Now it is time to make new decisions
and explore other treatment options.
The symptoms depend on
where the cancer is and how large it is. The most common places for breast
cancer to spread are within the breast or to the nearby chest wall or to the
liver, lungs, or bones. Common symptoms include a lump in your breast or on
your chest wall, bone pain, and shortness of breath.
Or you may not
have any symptoms. Sometimes recurrent or metastatic breast cancer is found
with an X-ray or a lab test.
To plan your treatment, your
doctor will consider where the cancer is and what type of treatment you had in
the past. Your wishes and quality of life are also important factors. Treatment
choices may include surgery, medicines like
hormone therapy, and
radiation. Sometimes a mix of these treatments is
Treatments for breast cancer can cause side effects. Your
doctor can tell you what problems to expect and help you find ways to manage
Your doctor may recommend that you join a clinical trial if one is available in your area. Clinical trials test new cancer treatments and may be the best choice for you.
If treatments don't work, a time may come when the goal
of your treatment shifts from trying to cure your cancer to keeping you as comfortable as possible. This can allow you to make the most of the time you have left.