Signs and symptoms of recurrent breast cancer vary depending on where the cancer comes back.
In a local recurrence, cancer reappears in the same area as your original cancer.
If you've undergone lumpectomy, the cancer could recur in the remaining breast tissue. If you've undergone mastectomy, the cancer could recur in the tissue that lines the chest wall or in the skin.
Signs and symptoms of local recurrence within the same breast may include:
- A new lump in your breast or irregular area of firmness
- Changes to the skin of your breast
- Skin inflammation or area of redness
- Nipple discharge
Signs and symptoms of local recurrence on the chest wall after a mastectomy may include:
- One or more painless nodules on or under the skin of your chest wall
- A new area of thickening along or near the mastectomy scar
A regional breast cancer recurrence means the cancer has come back in the nearby lymph nodes.
Signs and symptoms of regional recurrence may include a lump or swelling in the lymph nodes located:
- Under your arm
- Near your collarbone
- In the groove above your collarbone
- In your neck
A distant (metastatic) recurrence means the cancer has traveled to distant parts of the body, most commonly the bones, liver and lungs.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Persistent and worsening pain, such as chest or bone pain
- Persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Severe headaches
When to see a doctor
After your breast cancer treatment ends, your doctor will likely create a schedule of follow-up exams for you. During follow-up exams, your doctor checks for any signs of cancer recurrence.
You can also report any new signs or symptoms to your doctor. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.
Jun. 05, 2014
- Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Breast cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- When cancer returns. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/when-cancer-returns. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Distress management. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Hurria A, et al. Patterns of relapse and long-term complications of therapy in breast cancer survivors. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 13, 2014.
- Rock CL, et al. Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012;62:242.
- Pruthi S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 17, 2014.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 25, 2014.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.