Every woman who has successfully survived breast cancer has doubts if their tumor will ever come back to haunt their lives.
Yes, it is possible, and it is known as recurrence. And, the risk factor is highest within the first five years of the treatment.
The tumor can again develop in the same region or anywhere in the body. Some of the popular sites for the recurrence of breast tumors include the brain, lungs, lymph nodes, liver, and bones.
How To Know If Breast Cancer Has Recurred?
It is advisable to self-examine your breast after the treatment.
Touch the treated area to determine if there is any lump. You must right away speak to your doctor if you discover any changes. Also, regular mammograms are recommended by the doctors.
Breast Changes That May Indicate Cancer Recurrence
- Thickening of the skin or lump formation near one or both the breasts (underneath the arms) that isn’t going after the period.
- A slight change in the contour, shape, or size of the breast
- Feel like a marble-like under the skin area
- There is some change in the appeal and feel of your breasts or the nipples. These changes include the dimple in the breast skin, swollen, appearing scaly, or somewhat red.
- Clear fluid coming out of the nipples
Apart from frequent self-examination of the breasts, you must book follow-up appointments with your doctor, even months after the treatment.
During each appointment, your doctor, who has successfully treated you, will examine your breast.
They will ask you a couple of questions, such as any new symptoms or changes you are experiencing with your breasts.
The common symptoms include pain, weight loss, loss of appetite, headaches, or anything else. They may prescribe tests and scans if needed.
PCR Master Mix test is used for the diagnosis of breast cancer. It is a highly-sensitive & rapid diagnostic test for detecting cancerous cells in one or both the breasts.
This test is done regularly during the treatment to understand the progress and several months after the treatment to identify any recurrence.
Initially, after the treatment, the follow-up appointments are usually twice in a month, and then after every three to four months. The longer you are free of any usual signs or symptoms that suggest a recurrence, the less often you need to visit your doctor.
Which Factors Affect the Recurrence of Breast Cancer?
- Size of the Tumor: If you had a large tumor size, the greater the risk of recurrence is there. It means the tumor was not completely eliminated.
- Cancer Spread: The spread of cancer also determines whether you are at risk of redeveloping the tumor. If you were diagnosed in the advanced stage of breast cancer, and the cancerous cells had spread to your lymph nodes, you must be wary of recurrence. Risk further increases if the cancer cells are found in your blood vessels.
- HER2: If these genes are in your body, then you are an ideal candidate for breast cancer recurrence because they contribute to the regrowth of the cancerous cells.
- Nuclear Grade: It is the rate at which the tumor divides to form new cells. Cancerous cells with high nuclear grade value are aggressive and generally come back after the treatment.
How to treat Breast Cancer after recurrence?
The course of treatment depends on the treatment you received the first time. Mastectomy is advised for treating local recurrence of breast cancer if you had a lumpectomy. On the other hand, removing the tumor, followed by traditional therapy, is suitable if you had a mastectomy in the first place.
If the lump has been detected in the other breast, it is unrelated to your previous cancer. This would mean it will be treated as a new case of breast cancer. Your doctor can recommend mastectomy or lumpectomy, followed or in combination of any other treatment, if needed.
Finally, if you experience any unusual symptoms in your breast, in a few days or even after the treatment, speak to your doctor, and get yourself re-examined.