Recurrent and Metastatic Breast Cancer

We know you really don't want to be here, reading about breast cancer recurrence or metastasis. If you've had breast cancer, the possibility of recurrence and spread (metastasis) of breast cancer stays with you. You may be here because you fear this possibility. Or you may be here because it's already happened.

Keep in mind that a recurrence of breast cancer or metastatic (advanced) disease is NOT hopeless. Many women continue to live long, productive lives with breast cancer in this stage. It is also likely that your experience with treatment this time will be somewhat different from last time. There are so many options for your care and so many ways to chart your progress as you move through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.

Because there are so many options, this is a long section. You may want to read just a few pages at a time. You might find it very difficult to concentrate, think straight, and remember what you've read. That's natural when you're anxious, uncertain, overwhelmed. We'll do our best to help you find what you're looking for.

If you're already feeling stuck in the fear and you need to deal with that first, here are a few places to try right away:

In this section, we'll give you the support, information, and practical tips you need to deal with breast cancer that has come back or spread. In the following pages, you can learn about:

Where Breast Cancer Might Come Back and How to Detect It
Find out where the cancer can spread. Learn what the symptoms and tests are for each type of spread.
If Cancer Comes Back
Understand why this happens and how it affects your prognosis.
What You Can Do Now
Learn how to gather strength, get the information you need, and put together a supportive medical team.
Treatments for Local and Regional Recurrence
Find out about treatments for breast cancer that has returned to the breast area.
Living with Metastatic Disease
Learn how to deal with the challenge of a cancer that may go in and out of remission.
Treatments for Metastatic Cancer
Explore the therapies for metastatic cancer. These include:
Taking Breaks from Treatment
Find out how to juggle quality-of-life issues with the need for treatment. Figure out when's the best time to take a break for a while.
When Do You Stop Anti-cancer Treatment?
Learn how to weigh all the factors before making a decision about stopping treatment
Frequently Asked Questions About Recurrence
Read the answers to FAQs about recurrence.
Ask-the-Expert Conferences: Metastatic Breast Cancer

An earlier version of some of this material appeared in Living Beyond Breast Cancer (Random House, 1998) by Marisa Weiss and Ellen Weiss.

The medical experts for Recurrent and Metastatic Breast Cancer are:

Jennifer Armstrong, M.D., medical oncologist, Paoli Hospital, Paoli, PA.

Jennifer J. Griggs, M.D., medical oncologist/hematologist, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.

Marisa Weiss, M.D. breast radiation oncologist, Thomas Jefferson University Health System, Philadelphia, PA.

These experts are members of the Professional Advisory Board, including more than 60 medical experts in breast cancer-related fields.

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