Breast Cancer Recurrence: What to Expect If Breast Cancer Comes Back

Breast Cancer
January 13, 2021
3 min read
Breast Cancer Recurrence: What to Expect If Breast Cancer Comes Back

Recurrent breast cancer is cancer that returns after the initial treatment. While the initial treatment is meant to eliminate all of your cancer cells, some of these cells may evade the treatment and manage to survive. When this happens, they can start to multiply and cause recurrent cancer.


Typically, this recurrence takes place several months or years after you’ve had your initial treatment. It’s known as local recurrence if it comes back in the same place. However, it may spread to other areas of your body, in which case it’s known as distant recurrence.

What Are Recurrent Breast Cancer Symptoms?

There are some signs and symptoms you should watch for, including:

  • A lump or thickening in or around your breast or underarm that doesn’t go away after your period
  • A change in contour, size, or shape of your breast
  • An area under your skin that feels like a marble
  • A change in the feeling or look of the skin of your breast or nipple 
  • Leaking blood or clear fluid from your nipple
  • Swelling or a new lump somewhere in your body
  • Bone pain
  • New, persistent pain
  • Breathing issues, including a new cough
  • Persistent headaches
  • Yellowing of your eyes or skin
  • Changes in your energy level

What Is the Treatment?

Once you notice that you have recurrent breast cancer symptoms, it’s time to start thinking about recurrent breast cancer treatment. The type of treatment you’ll receive will depend upon what type of treatment you initially had. 

You may have had a lumpectomy to remove abnormal breast tissue from your chest. If you have a local recurrence after a lumpectomy, you’ll have a mastectomy. This procedure surgically removes the entire breast and sometimes some of the surrounding tissue as well.

Some doctors will perform a mastectomy right away. If you have recurrence near this area you’ll have the tumor surgically removed. Often times, this surgery is followed by a course of radiation.

Regardless of whether you’ve had a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, you will probably have either radiation, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy after your second surgery. In some circumstances, your doctor will use a combination of these things to treat you with. 

When breast cancer is found in your other breast, it may be a new tumor that is in no way related to your first bout with breast cancer. In this case, breast cancer treatment is conducted as though you’ve developed a whole new case of cancer. You will get either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, followed by more treatment if your doctor feels that it’s necessary. 

It’s also possible for cancer to come back in an entirely new part of your body. The most common places for cancer to back are your bones, brain, liver, and lungs. The treatment protocol for this type of cancer depends upon where it’s located. It will usually consist of surgery, radiation, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy. Sometimes a combination of treatments may be necessary.

If your doctor discovers that your cancer cells have high levels of the HER2 protein, they may recommend that you get targeted therapy either by itself or in combination with chemotherapy.


Learning that you have recurrent cancer can be much more difficult than dealing with an initial diagnosis of cancer. However, you shouldn’t give up hope. Treatment can control the disease for a long period. If you are dealing with breast cancer recurrence, BASS Medical Group can help. Their elite team is made up of doctors who are experts in their respective fields. BASS Medical Group has many convenient locations in the greater San Francisco area. Call (925) 350-4044 to learn more or schedule an appointment.