What Are Metastatic and Recurrent Breast Cancer?

Recurrent Breast Cancer

Recurrent breast cancer occurs when breast cancer comes back in or near the original location after treatment.

Metastatic and Recurrent Breast Cancer

Local Recurrence

Local recurrence affects the skin of the breast or the chest wall. You may notice a change in the size or shape of your breast or a change in how your breast feels. If you had a mastectomy, you may notice small bumps along the scar line on your chest wall.

Regional Recurrence

Regional recurrence affects nearby lymph nodes , such as those under the arm (axillary lymph nodes) or in the neck (supraclavicular lymph nodes). You may have swollen lymph nodes in your neck or under your arm. Your arm may also swell. Both types of recurrence can often be treated with surgery and radiation therapy and are not the same as metastatic breast cancer.1, 4 Metastatic breast cancer (distant recurrence).

Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer occurs when cancer cells travel from the breast, either through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system, to other parts of the body and cause cancer in their new location. It is sometimes called "distant recurrence." If metastatic breast cancer cells affect your bones, you may have bone pain, and your bones may break more easily. Cells that travel to your lungs may make you short of breath. If your liver is affected, you may have swelling in your belly or yellow-looking, itchy skin. Breast cancer that affects the brain can cause confusion, changes in your vision, and even seizures.

Metastatic breast cancer can be present when a woman is first diagnosed with breast cancer or may occur months to years after treatment.

Types of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs when breast cells divide and grow without control, sometimes invading surrounding tissue.

Breast cancer can be classified generally as follows:
  • Non-Invasive Breast Cancer
  • Invasive Cancer
  • Metastatic Breast Cancer


Everyone's treatment is different. To help doctors decide on the best treatment, the stage of the cancer needs to be determined.

  • Surgery
  • Lumpectomy
  • Mastectomy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy or Radiotherapy
  • Hormonal Therapy

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