BACKGROUND: Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in women, and while treatment of the cancer has drastically improved over the years, it is not uncommon for the cancer to recur. Recurrent breast cancer is breast cancer that comes back after initial treatment. This recurrence could be because the original treatment did not completely destroy or remove all of the cancer cells, or the breast cancer is so aggressive that it survived chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or radiation. Breast cancer can take months or even years after treatment to return. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)
TYPES: Recurrent breast cancer can take three different forms:
Local recurrence is when the cancer comes back in the same area as the initial tumor, which is often the breast, chest wall, or skin in the chest area of women who underwent a double mastectomy. Signs of local recurrence are a lump or thickening in the breast area, redness or inflammation of the skin, or any strange nipple changes.
Regional recurrence refers to breast cancer that comes back in the lymph nodes in the armpit or collarbone area. Swollen lymph nodes, pain in the arm or shoulder, or a loss of feeling in the arm or hand can all indicate a potential regional recurrence.
Distant recurrence can be the most severe form of recurrent breast cancer. A distant recurrence is when the breast cancer has spread and comes back in a different part of the body. The most common areas the cancer spreads to are the liver, bones, and lungs. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)
TREATMENT: Treatment for recurrent breast cancer depends on how aggressive the cancer is as well as where it reappeared. Sometimes surgery or targeted radiation is enough to rid the person of the cancer cells, but other times chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapies are needed. If the cancer is too aggressive to be cured, patients may want to treat the symptoms so they are comfortable. (Source: www.breastcancer.org)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: For high-risk triple-negative breast cancer, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College discovered that an anti-copper drug compound disables the ability of bone marrow cells from setting up a “home” in organs to receive and nurture migrating cancer tumor cells. The average survival for this type of breast cancer is historically nine months, but results from the phase II clinical trial shows if patients at high-risk of relapse with no current visible breast cancer are copper depleted, it results in a prolonged period of time with no cancer recurrence. Only two of the 11 study participants with a history of advanced triple-negative breast cancer relapsed within ten months after using the anti-copper drug, tetrathiomolybdate. Four of the study participants with a history of metastatic triple-negative breast cancer have had long-term benefit remaining disease free for between three and five and a half years. Also, study participants with other forms of high-risk for relapse breast cancer, either in stage three or four, without evidence of disease after treatment have also done well in the study. The progression-free survival rate among the 29 patients has been 85 percent. (Source: http://weill.cornell.edu/news/releases)