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If your cancer comes back after treatment

Find out about the treatment you might have 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. The cancer might be picked up at one of your follow up scans or appointments. Or you might notice a small pink or red lump called a nodule in the:

  • breast tissue that is left after 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 the area of skin can become sore. And the skin might start to break down.

Treatment

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
  • targeted cancer drugs

You might have one or more of these treatments. Your doctor or specialist nurse 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 or between the ribs
  • the nodes above the collarbone (supra clavicular nodes)
  • lymph nodes around the neck

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

Treatment

To treat a regional recurrence you might have:

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • hormonal therapy
  • targeted cancer drugs

If the cancer has spread

Cancer that has spread from the breast to other parts of the body is called advanced cancer. The most common places for the cancer to spread is to the bones, liver, lungs or brain.

It can be very upsetting to have to cope with treatment for an advanced cancer. It can help to talk to family and friends about how you feel.

Getting support and information

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 on 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

You can also contact one of the breast cancer organisations. They often have free factsheets and booklets they can send to you. They might 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.