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Breast Cancer Recurrence

The recurrence of breast cancer is something no one wants to face. The majority of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer will never experience recurrence of their disease. However, if it does happen, breast cancer recurrence can be effectively treated most of the time.

What is the risk for breast cancer recurrence?

Key factors are the type and location of the recurrence. The highest risk of recurrence for breast cancer patients is during the first two years following treatment. At the Johns Hopkins Breast Center, our team of breast cancer specialists monitors patients very closely for those first two years. Some patients may be monitored longer, depending on the stage of their disease and other prognostic factors about their breast cancer. Your risk of recurrence is never zero; however, as more time passes, your risk goes down. Read about the 10 lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk for breast cancer recurrence

MYTH: If I’ve had a mastectomy, I cannot have a breast cancer recurrence. Get the facts.

What is the treatment for breast cancer recurrence?

Treatment for recurrent breast cancer depends on the kind of recurrence you develop. There are two types of breast cancer recurrence:

Local Breast Cancer Recurrence

Local breast cancer recurrence is when the cancer has reoccurred close to or in the same place the first tumor was found within the breast. If you were treated with lumpectomy and radiation for your first occurrence, the breast tissue cannot be treated with radiation again. In that case, the standard of care for surgical treatment is mastectomy.

If radiation was not part of your original treatment when lumpectomy was performed, then another lumpectomy followed by radiation may be recommended. If there is not adequate breast volume remaining for lumpectomy, mastectomy may be recommended. Depending on the medical oncologist’s evaluation, which is based on the prognostic factors of the tumor, he or she may recommend chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy. 

Distant Breast Cancer Recurrence

Distant breast cancer recurrence is when the cancer has spread to another organ within the body. Breast cancer that has spread—also called metastatic breast cancer—is no longer curable and needs to be managed as a chronic disease. There are various treatment options to control the cancer and stop its progression, prolonging a patient’s life and improving quality of life. These treatments may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Biologic targeted therapy
  • Small molecule inhibitors (e.g. everolimus, palbociclib)
  • Clinical trials

Our Expertise

We are experts in managing local breast cancer recurrence and metastatic disease. As a comprehensive breast center, our patients range from the newly diagnosed to those with advanced metastatic disease. Our goal is to find treatment and lifestyle management options for all patients. We use all the healing modalities that evidence-based medicine has proven to be beneficial in the treatment of breast cancer, including:

  • Surgery
  • Medical oncology  
  • Radiation oncology
  • Palliative and supportive care
  • Genetic counseling
  • Clinical trials