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BRAIN ATTACK:

Best Things You Can Do to Prevent a Breast Cancer Relapse

By Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit in Breast Cancer

Dec 07 , 2022 | 3 min read

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In this article, let us discuss the best things one can do to help prevent breast cancer relapse, understand what causes cancer to come back and take steps to avoid those risks.

Things you can do to prevent a breast cancer relapse include:

1. Maintaining a healthy weight

2. Getting regular exercise

3. Limiting alcohol consumption

4. Eating a healthy diet to stop cancer

5. Reducing stress levels

6. Getting regular checkups and screenings

What are the risks of Breast Cancer relapse?

A significant risk factor for breast cancer recurrence is the presence of residual cancer cells at the time of initial treatment. Even if all visible cancer has been removed by surgery, there is a risk that some cancer cells remain in the body and may grow and divide, eventually causing a new tumour. Breast cancer can also recur as a local recurrence (in the breast or chest area), regional recurrence (in the lymph nodes or surrounding tissues), or distant recurrence (in other parts of the body).

Factors that make one prone to breast cancer include:

  • Type of breast cancer: Some kinds of breast cancer are more likely to recur than others. For example, HER2-positive breast cancers tend to have a higher recurrence rate than other types.

  • Size of original tumour: Large tumours are more likely to recur than small tumours.

  • The number of lymph nodes involved: The more lymph nodes containing cancer cells at the diagnosis, the greater the risk of relapse.

  • Grade of tumour: Tumours graded as high-grade (aggressive) are more likely to come back than low-grade (slow-growing) tumours.

  • Hormone receptor status: Breast cancers that are oestrogen receptor (ER) positive or progesterone receptor (PR) positive are less likely to relapse than ER/PR negative tumours.

How can I know if my cancer is progressing?

If your cancer is progressing, there are a few things you can look out for. Unfortunately, there is no definitive way to know if your cancer is growing or spreading. However, some common signs that your cancer may be progressing include the following:

  • new lumps or masses in the breast

  • changes in the size or shape of the breast

  • changes in the appearance of the skin on the breast, such as redness, swelling, or bruising

  • discharge from the nipple

  • changes in nipple sensation

If you notice any of these above changes, see a doctor right away so they can determine if your cancer is progressing and treatment options available to you.

What is a recurrence?

A recurrence is defined as cancer that has come back after a period of remission. For breast cancer, this means cancer has returned to the breast or any other area of the body. In some cases, cancer may come back many years after initial treatment. Cancer cells may break away from the primary tumour and travel to other body parts through the bloodstream or lymph system. When these cells settle in another part of the body and grow, it is called metastasis.

How do I know if Breast Cancer has spread?

A breast cancer relapse can be prevented by being aware of the signs of breast cancer. Any changes in your breasts, such as a lump or change in size, shape, or texture, must be checked by your doctor immediately. Other symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of lymph nodes in the armpit or neck

  • Skin changes, such as redness or scaling

  • Nipple discharge or changes in appearance

  • Breast pain

If you have any concerns about your risk for breast cancer or are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see your doctor right away. Early detection of breast cancer is critical for successful treatment and survival.

Treating relapsed Breast Cancer

The National Cancer Institute defines a cancer relapse as "the return of cancer after a period of remission." 

A breast cancer relapse can happen even years after treatment. The best thing one can do to prevent a relapse is to live a healthy lifestyle and follow your doctor's recommendations for follow-up care.

Some things one can do to lower their risk of a breast cancer relapse: 

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Exercise regularly

  • Eat a healthy diet

  • Limit alcohol consumption

  • Don't smoke

  • Take your prescribed medications as directed

  • Get regular medical checkups and mammograms

Conclusion

There is no one particular answer to preventing breast cancer relapse. However, some suggested things you can do include:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

  • Staying up-to-date on your screenings and appointments.

  • Being aware of changes in your body.

Additionally, it's essential to remember that breast cancer can return even years after treatment, so it's important to stay vigilant. If you have any concerns or questions, speak with your doctor.