Many women who have had breast cancer wonder what the future may hold. Not knowing what is ahead for them is linked to fears and stress over the future. Women describe that every ache and pain makes them feel as if their disease is coming back or getting worse.
First things first: If you have had breast cancer before, it doesn’t mean that the cancer will recur. Still, it’s normal to have concerns about a disease you have experienced. Don’t let the discussion of fear in this section feed into your own fears. The information on our website can help you manage the fears instead of letting them manage you.
The fear of breast cancer is unlike any other — psychologists and other experts agree on that. The fear can take many different forms, depending upon where you are in the breast cancer experience. Understand that many of your fears are shared by others. While fears are normal, they are uncomfortable to live with. We’ll help you figure out how you can manage fear so you can focus on living a happy and healthy life.
Facts About Recurrence
Because knowledge is power and women have many questions about the return of breast cancer, here are some facts so that you will know more about breast cancer coming back. You should always let your doctor know if you notice any changes in your breast or chest area. Remember, you are doing everything that
you can by keeping up with appointments, taking medications as prescribed, and staying healthy!
There are three areas where the cancer can return:
- Local: This means that the cancer may come back in the same breast. If this happens, it might be that the skin or tissue seems thicker in the scar area, breast area, or collarbone. It may also look or feel like a lump or mass.
- Regional: This means that the cancer may come back in the skin, soft tissue of the chest wall, and under the arm.
- Distant: This means that the cancer may come back in other parts of the body, like the bones, lungs, liver or brain. You may have heard the term metastasis used for this kind of return of cancer.
There are treatments that can be used for breast cancer, if it returns. Many times, they are similar to what you experienced when you were diagnosed previously. The goal of treating cancer that has come back is to slow or stop the disease, extend life, and keep the quality of life. Many of the treatments are new and are being used with other treatments that have been used for years. Because of this there is a lot of reason to have hope, even if cancer has come back.
- Radiation therapy may be used as local treatment to the chest wall if the cancer returns. It involves the use of high-energy x-rays to a local site and is often used with chemotherapy.
- Chemotherapy drugs that are taken either by mouth or in the vein (IV). They may be used if cancer returns and affects more than one area of the body or when cancer spreads to the liver, lung, or central nervous system. Chemotherapy is often used because it goes all through your body and can fight cancer in many areas at one time.
- Hormonal therapy is treatment that uses a group of drugs called hormones. It is most often used with patients whose breast cancer responds to certain hormones, or that contain certain receptors.
When Do You Need To Seek Help?
If you are nervous about your cancer coming back, you should talk with others about these concerns. Forge’s Client Services Coordinator, Janet Dees, can connect you with a Peer Mentor who has been exactly where you are and understands, free mental health counseling, or a support group. Call her at (205) 990-5367 or [email protected].
• National Cancer Institute: When Cancer Returns