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If your cancer comes back after treatment

Find out about treatment and where to get support if your cancer comes back.

Many women have no more problems after their original treatment for breast cancer. But sometimes breast cancer comes back. This can be a shock and you might need time to deal with the information your team gives you.

If breast cancer comes back

If the breast cancer comes back in the same breast it's called local recurrence.

You may notice a small pink or red lump called a nodule in the:

  • breast tissue which remains after breast surgery
  • skin near the breast
  • scar from the operation

Let your doctor know as soon as you can if you notice a nodule. They can often be easy to treat.

If you don't have treatment it can become sore. And the skin might start to break down.

The treatment you have for a local recurrence depends on the treatment you had before.

It might include:

  • having the whole breast removed - if you had a lump removed before
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy
  • hormone therapy
  • biological therapy

You might not have all of these treatments. Your doctor will talk you through your treatment plan.

Cancer beyond the breast area

A regional recurrence is cancer that comes back in:

  • the chest (pectoral) muscles
  • lymph nodes under the breastbone and between the ribs
  • the nodes above the collarbone (supra clavicular nodes)
  • lymph nodes surrounding the neck

A regional recurrance usually means the cancer has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes under the arm (axillary lymph nodes).

To treat a regional recurrence you might have:

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • hormonal therapy
  • biological therapy

If the cancer has spread

Advanced cancer is cancer that has spread from the breast to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones or brain.

Coping with advanced cancer, having had treatment for breast cancer, can be very distressing. Talk things through with someone you trust.


It can be very difficult to cope with the news that your cancer has come back. At first, you are likely to feel very upset, frightened and confused. Or you may feel that things are out of your control.

It is very important to get the right information about your type of cancer and how it is best treated. People who are well informed about their illness and treatment are more able to make decisions and cope with what happens. Your doctor or breast care nurse can give you information.

You can talk to the Cancer Research UK nurses about your cancer coming back on 0808 800 4040

You can also contact one of the breast cancer organisations. They often have free factsheets and booklets they can send to you. They may also be able to put you in touch with a support group.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.