If breast cancer returns
In the vast majority of cases, early breast cancer will not come back (recur) after treatment. Although the risk is higher with locally advanced breast cancer, most people will not experience a recurrence.
However, it is possible for breast cancer to come back in the treated breast or in other parts of the body after treatment for early or locally advanced breast cancer. This is why it is important to have regular check-ups.
Factors that may make the cancer more likely to recur include:
- the cancer was large at the first diagnosis
- the cancer was found in the lymph nodes
- the cancer was hormone receptor negative
- the grade of the cancer was high
- the surgical margin was not clear
- not having or not completing the adjuvant therapy (e.g. radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy) that was recommended after surgery
- young age.
Having one or more of these factors doesn’t necessarily mean the cancer will come back or spread.
It is important to be “breast aware”, which means you regularly look at your breasts and feel them to know what is normal for you. This can help detect cancer in the other breast. Being breast aware and having regular check-ups can also help find a recurrence early so it can be treated.
Prof Christobel Saunders, Professor of Surgical Oncology and Head, Division of Surgery, The University of Western Australia, and Consultant Surgeon, Royal Perth, Fiona Stanley and St John of God Subiaco Hospitals, WA; Dr Marie-Frances Burke, Radiation Oncologist, Medical Director, Genesis CancerCare Queensland, QLD; Kylie Campbell, Breast Care Nurse and Clinical Lead, Murraylands, McGrath Foundation, SA; Carmen Heathcote, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Annmaree Mitchell, Consumer; Sarah Pratt, Nurse Coordinator, Breast Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Wendy Vincent, Breast Physician, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick, NSW, and Clinical Director BreastScreen NSW, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Nicholas Wilcken, Director of Medical Oncology, Westmead Hospital, and Co-ordinating Editor, Cochrane Breast Cancer Group, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. This booklet is funded through the generosity of the people of Australia.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.