Cancer Treatment Centers of America

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Have questions? Call (800) 615-3055 to speak to a cancer information specialist.

Breast cancer stages

Making an educated treatment decision begins with the stage, or progression, of the disease. Using the results from your diagnostic tests, your care team at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) will develop an appropriate treatment plan for you.

If you have been recently diagnosed, we will review your pathology to confirm you have received the correct diagnosis and staging information, and develop a personalized treatment plan. If you have a recurrence, we will perform comprehensive testing and identify a treatment approach that is suited to your needs.

Video: Cancer Staging

Cancer Staging

Recurrent breast cancer

Recurrent breast cancer occurs when the disease has returned after treatment.  Most recurrent cancers appear within the first two or three years after treatment, but breast cancer can recur many years later.  Recurrent breast cancer may come back in the breast, chest wall or in other parts of the body.

Breast cancer that returns locally (i.e., in the area treated with surgery) is called a local recurrence. If the disease appears in another part of the body, it is referred to as metastatic breast cancer or regional reccurrence. Cancer cells may travel away from the original tumor in the breast to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. Common metastatic areas include the bones, liver and lungs. Even when a metastatic breast tumor spreads to a different part of the body, it contains the same cancerous cells that developed in the breast.

It is important to report new signs or symptoms of breast cancer to your doctor. Symptoms of recurrent breast cancer vary from person to person.

Signs and symptoms of local breast cancer recurrence may include:

  • An increase in the size or shape of the breast
  • Lumps or nodes felt on or inside the breast
  • Skin changes, such as swelling, redness or other visible differences
  • Skin inflammation or area of redness
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • Irritated or itchy breasts

Signs and symptoms of metastatic breast cancer may include:

  • Swelling or lumps in the lymph nodes
  • Unexplained pain in other areas of the body, such as the bone
  • Difficulty breathing or a persistent cough
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
  • Intense headaches

According to the Susan G. Komen® organization, women with early breast cancer most often develop local recurrence within the first five years after treatment. On average, 7 to 11 percent of women with early breast cancer experience a local recurrence during this time.

For patients with a family history of cancer or a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, the cancer recurrence rate is higher. The risk of finding new cancers, such as ovarian cancer, may also be higher. Cancer recurrence risk is based on many factors, including the cancer type and how it was treated.

It is important to continue performing monthly breast self-exams and seeing your doctor for follow-up visits, so your doctor can examine your breasts, discuss any new symptoms and order lab or imaging tests, if necessary. Continuing routine screenings and annual checkups is important in detecting breast cancer recurrence early.

We're here to guide you through the cancer journey

We understand you may be feeling overwhelmed with questions and concerns about your type of cancer and what it all means. We're here to help guide you through the process.

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Discuss treatment options with an Oncology Information Specialist, who is available 24/7 at (800) 615-3055, or chat with us.

An accurate cancer diagnosis

accurate cancer diagnosis

Our team of cancer experts uses advanced, minimally invasive diagnostic technology to detect cancerous cells anywhere in the body.