Breast cancer may return in some people, even after completing cancer therapy. Recurrence is the term for this. Recurrence may be local, regional, or distant based on initial cancer location. It is not always a recurrence when cancer is discovered in the opposite breast; it may be new cancer that needs its therapies.
What is breast cancer recurrence?
A recurrence will be characterised as:
- Local: A recurrence of the initial tumor in the same or nearby location.
- Regional: Lymph nodes close to the primary tumor are affected.
- Distant: Distant organs, such as the liver, bone, or brain, are often affected. This is metastatic disease.
If your cancer progresses or spreads while undergoing therapy, this would be referred to as treatment failure.
How do I know if breast cancer has returned?
Breast cancer recurrence may present a wide range of symptoms, much like the initial disease. However, some symptoms may be more obvious, such as a lump.
Here are some indicators of a possible local or regional recurrence:
- Swollen, puffy, or scaly breasts
- Stains of color or a “peel-like” texture on the skin
- A sweltering spot on the breasts
- A breast tumor, bulge, or thickening
- Scar tissue that has thickened or become irritated
- Underarm lymph nodes that have grown in size
- Flaky or retracted nipples are examples of nipple alteration
- Clear or red discharge from the nipples
Recurrences may also result in non-specific symptoms listed below.
- An unexplained reduction in bodyweight
- Shortness of breath or a new cough
- Bone aches and pains
- Pain under the ribs on the right side of the abdomen
- Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck or groin region
- Changes in vision
- Eye or skin discoloration
What can I do to stop breast cancer recurrence?
Try following these healthy suggestions to lessen your risk of breast cancer recurrence:
- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity decreases tiredness symptoms, lowers stress levels, and positively influences long-term wellness. Patients who exercised regularly had a higher ten-year survival rate than those who did not. At least 3-5 hours of moderate exercise each week is recommended.
- Keep up with your routine health checks: As part of your preventive health care plan for women of childbearing age and beyond, you should have regular mammograms, flu shots, pap smear checks, and bone density scan checks. As well as routine dental cleanings, annual physicals, cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure, and any other screenings your doctor suggests.
- Keep a healthy weight: It is more common for overweight women to experience a recurrence of breast cancer. Keeping a healthy weight may reduce your risk of recurrence and improve your overall health.
- Continue surveillance: You need to be on a follow-up protocol as prescribed by your oncologist whereby certain tests are done at a fixed interval. These tests do not prevent a recurrence but can identify a recurrence in the initial period, thus improving the chance of a cure.
Tips to Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence
Breast cancer recurrence may be decreased by a variety of methods, that include:
- Hormone therapy: If you have hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, hormone therapy may minimize your chance of recurrence after your first treatment. Seven to ten years of hormone treatment are permissible.
- Chemotherapy: Whenever indicated and chemotherapy started, all cycles should be completed
- Radiation therapy: Radiation treatment when indicated should be completed.
- Targeted therapy: Drugs that target the HER2 protein may help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
- Bone-building drugs: Recurrence of breast cancer spread to bones (bone metastasis) is reduced by using bone-building medications in those at greater risk of recurrence.
Does diet affect breast cancer recurrence?
A diet heavy in fat and calories has been shown to raise estrogen levels. Therefore, you may benefit from a low-fat, low-calorie diet if you’ve had breast cancer. Listed below are some food recommendations to consider:
- Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet (a minimum of five portions every day)
- Go for organic foods.
- To limit pesticide exposure, wash vegetables thoroughly.
- Consume less red meat.
- Every week, eat at least two servings of fish. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, such as salmon and sardines, provide several health benefits (If possible, eat wild salmon from freshwater.)
- Increase the amount of fiber you eat
- Avoid consuming trans fats.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends regular follow-up visits post-treatment to preserve excellent health after having breast cancer. In addition, it would be best if you talked to your doctor about the possibility of a recurrence of your breast cancer.
Individuals routinely monitored for breast cancer recurrence may often pick up on warning signs outside of their scheduled check-ups.