| Recurrent Breast Cancer Treatment
The term "recurrent" breast cancer refers to reappearance of the original breast cancer after initial treatments. The main goal of cancer treatments is to remove or destroy all the cancer cells in the body, but in some patients, this goal is not achievable. When a few cancer cells remain in the body, they can grow into a new tumor and cause the recurrence of the cancer.
Every woman with history of breast cancer should have regular follow up visits with their breast health care team after their initial treatment. These visits should include breast examination, mammograms, some blood tests, and if necessary breast ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at least every 6-12 months. If areas of concern are identified they will often need to be evaluated by supplemental imaging modalities and possibly a biopsy. A biopsy is necessary to confirm that breast cancer has recurred as not all areas of concern prove to be recurrent breast cancer.
When a breast cancer recurrence is identified it is important to look at the entire body to determine exactly where the tumor has spread. We currently use combined positron emission tomography (PET) and computer-aided tomography (CT or CAT) scans to obtain this information. Breast cancer recurrence can be divided into two categories: local disease recurrence (often called local-regional recurrence) and distant disease (metastatic disease). The treatment approach for local and distant recurrence is very different.