As soon as a woman manages to recover from breast cancer, a simple question arises: will there be any recurrence? Will the disease get back? This is a question number one among people going through post-treatment period. Let's find out what German doctors and other specialists think about it.
In fact, cancer may get back anytime in woman’s life. But most cases take place five years after the end of all therapies. No matter how much time passed since the first cancer – a patient should regularly check her health.
What Causes It?
If cancer affected you once, it means that you will always be prone to this disease: your cells may be affected again. But there are many other reasons for recurrence:
- heredity, e.g. family history of cancer (if your relatives were diagnosed with cancer, it means you are genetically presupposed to it);
- unhealthy habits and lifestyle (smoking, drugs, alcohol), lack of physical activity and sleep, permanent stress. Why does it matter? Everything mentioned abode decreases organism's resistance to toxins and makes immune system weaker;
- hormonal changes (excessive amount of estrogen triggers development of malignant cells in breasts);
- cancer cells that survived after therapies (they recover and start growing and multiplying again).
Sometimes cancer may occur again, but in another breast. It may be not connected with above-mentioned reasons at all.
Recurrence manifests into tumors that form at the place of mastectomy scar, or in any other body part. Usually, lungs, liver, brain, lymph nodes and bones are affected.
To detect it, you should keep an eye out on changes happening with your body. Check the place that was treated and other parts of body every month. If something has altered, talk to your oncologist. Besides, don't forget to make mammograms regularly. Modern specialists advise to make 3D mammograms that allow checking breast area properly. Presence of BRCA mutations means you need to make MRI of breast. Consult with your doctor to define the best screening methods.
Together with self-examination you should make visits to your doctor. He will check the breasts and consult you about symptoms. Tell him, if you experience pains, fatigue, nausea, headache, and loss of appetite, weight fluctuations or anything else. Initially, appointments are made once in 3-4 months, the more you stay healthy, the less often visits are.
If you notice one of the following things, it may be a symptom of recurrence:
- Lump in breast, armpit or under arm that does not disappear by itself.
- Alterations of size, shape or contour of boobs.
- Visible marble-like area under breast.
- Change of skin appearance, including redness, puckering, dimpling, formation of orange-like areas, warmth.
- Bloody or transparent fluid coming out of nipples.
- Nipple flattening or deformation.
Proper treatment tactic depends on the treatment you had initially. Women who went through lumpectomy usually have to go through mastectomy. If mastectomy had already been done, tumor can be cut out again, and treated with radiation. A doctor decides what is best for you after surgery. If a tumor appears in another breast, this case may be unrelated to the first one, and a new type of treatment is arranged. The same can be told about cancer taking place in lungs, bones and liver: preferable kind of treatment is defined by a doctor. When malignant cells have high level of HER2 protein, immunotherapy with Herceptin is prescribed.
There is not much you can do before cancer is revealed. However, there are some factors defining its behavior.
- First, make sure that previous treatment was effective and fully accomplished. Even one malignant cell that was not killed may start up the new outbreak of disease.
- Try to stick to healthy lifestyle. It matters a lot. Do physical exercises, eat foods full of antioxidants, and avoid experiencing stress and lack of sleep. If you have bad habits (for instance, smoking), it is high time to forget about them forever.
- Visit a doctor and perform self-examination regularly. Be on the lookout of what is happening with your body, and keep the track of changes taking place – if any alteration takes place, visit an oncologist.
Note that most often, breast cancer recurrence does not require more complicated treatment than the previous disease outbreak. If you have been diagnosed with it one more time, you already know what to go through, and what treatment is. Do your best to prevent cancer recurrence down the road, and it may disappear forever. Also remember that women with secondary cancer cases manage to live productive lives for many years.