The risk of breast cancer recurrence varies depending on the type of breast cancer, the stage of the cancer at diagnosis, and the person’s age and health. Inflammatory breast cancer and triple-negative breast cancer have the highest recurrence rates.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in females in the United States, accounting for 30% of newly diagnosed cancers each year.
After treatment, some people may experience breast cancer recurrence, which is the return of cancer cells in the breast or nearby areas.
This article explains which types of breast cancer are most likely to recur.
Breast cancer recurrence is when breast cancer returns or recurs after treatment. It can occur in the same breast, lymph nodes under the arm, or other parts of the body.
According to the breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen, most people with breast cancer will not experience a recurrence. However, the risk of recurrence still exists for some individuals even years after their initial diagnosis and treatment.
Read an overview of breast cancer.
All types of breast cancer can recur, but aggressive subtypes, such as inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), are more likely to return.
IBC is a
TNBC is another aggressive subtype of breast cancer with a
There are three types of breast cancer recurrence:
Local recurrence occurs when cancer cells regrow in the same area as the original cancer, such as in the breast or chest wall.
Regional recurrence occurs when cancer cells spread to the nearby lymph nodes or the areas surrounding the initial tumor.
Distant recurrence, also known as metastatic breast cancer or Stage IV breast cancer, occurs when cancer cells spread to distant parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, lungs, or brain.
If a person develops cancer in an untreated area of the breast after their initial treatment for breast cancer, doctors consider it a new cancer rather than a recurrence. Some healthcare professionals
Anyone diagnosed with breast cancer is at risk of recurrence, but the likelihood and timing of recurrence can vary depending on several factors, including the following:
Type of breast cancer
The risk of recurrence is higher for some subtypes of breast cancer than for others. For example, the risk of recurrence is higher for TNBC than for cancers that are hormone receptor-positive (HR+), HER2-positive, or both HR+ and HER2-positive.
Stage of cancer at the original diagnosis
The risk of recurrence is higher for people with advanced breast cancer at the time of their initial diagnosis than those with early-stage breast cancer.
Person’s age and overall health
Susan G. Komen also lists the biology of the tumor and the treatment received as additional factors that can impact the risk of recurrence.
It is important to note that these are just general factors that can affect the risk of breast cancer recurrence. The actual risk of recurrence will vary from person to person.
Other factors that may influence recurrence
Other risk factors that may increase a person’s chances of recurrence
- Lymph node involvement: If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, there is a higher chance of the cancer coming back.
- Genetic mutations: Certain genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
- Tumor size and stage at diagnosis: Larger tumors and more advanced stages of cancer may have a higher likelihood of coming back.
- Lifestyle: Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, and a poor diet can also increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
The average time for breast cancer recurrence varies depending on the breast cancer subtype. For example, most local breast cancer recurrence occurs within the first 5 years after diagnosis.
However, people with TNBC have a higher risk of recurrence, and their cancer may return as early as
The outlook for recurrent breast cancer is generally better than it used to be. With advances in treatment, many people with recurrent breast cancer can live long and healthy lives.
The relative 5-year survival rate for people with recurrent breast cancer is about 25%. This means that 25 out of 100 people with recurrent breast cancer will survive for at least 5 years after their diagnosis. However, this number can vary depending on the factors mentioned above.
- Localized: 99%
- Regional: 86%
- Distant: 30%
Anyone diagnosed with breast cancer is at risk of recurrence, but most people will not experience a recurrence. The risk of recurrence is higher for those with IBC, TNBC, or other risk factors.
It is important to stay vigilant and follow a recommended follow-up plan to detect any signs of recurrence early on.