Signs and symptoms of recurrent breast cancer vary depending on where the cancer comes back.

Local recurrence

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

Regional recurrence

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

Distant recurrence

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
  • Seizures

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

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.