Women Treated for Hormone-Receptor-Negative Cancers More Likely to Be Diagnosed With New Cancer in Other Breast

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Hormone-receptor-negative breast cancers are usually more aggressive, harder to treat, and more likely to come back (recur) than cancers that are hormone-receptor-positive. A study found that women treated for hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer were more than 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with a new cancer (either hormone-receptor-positive or -negative) in the other breast compared to women treated for hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.

The researchers looked at the medical histories of nearly 5,000 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 75% of the cancers were hormone-receptor-positive and about 25% were hormone-receptor-negative. The researchers wanted to see if the hormone-receptor status of the first breast cancer had any effect on the development of a new, second breast cancer in the same or opposite breast.

The results:

Women with an initial diagnosis of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer were twice as likely to develop a new, second breast cancer compared to the average woman's risk of developing breast cancer for the first time.

Women with an initial diagnosis of hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer were more than 3 times more likely to develop a new, second breast cancer compared to women with an initial diagnosis of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.

The risk of being diagnosed with a second hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer is almost 10 times greater in women with an initial diagnosis of hormone-receptor-negative cancer compared to women with an initial diagnosis of hormone-receptor-positive cancer.

The risk of being diagnosed with a new, second cancer in the other breast was much higher in women younger than 30 treated for hormone-receptor-negative cancer compared to young women treated for hormone-receptor-positive cancer.

African American, Hispanic, and Asian women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer were more likely to develop a new, second cancer in the other breast compared to non-Hispanic white women treated for hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer.

Based on their results, the researchers encouraged women treated for hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer to develop an aggressive screening plan.

If you've been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, your treatment plan may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy to lower the risk of the cancer coming back. Still, breast cancer recurrence does happen. Even if the original breast cancer doesn't come back, your risk of developing a new, second breast cancer in the same or opposite breast is higher than average, especially if the breast cancer was hormone-receptor-negative. Sticking to an aggressive screening plan is the best way to make sure that any breast cancer is diagnosed early, when it's most treatable.

There are many things you can do to make sure your risk of cancer coming back or being diagnosed with a new, different breast cancer is as low as it can be:

  • Ask your doctor about treatment options that are best for your current diagnosis and also consider any future risk. Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and hormonal therapies are used to treat breast cancer AND to lower the risk of the breast cancer coming back.
  • Stick with your treatment plan. Your doctor may have prescribed hormonal therapy or another treatment to lower the risk of breast cancer coming back. Follow that treatment plan just as your doctor has prescribed. Don't change your treatment or stop taking any medicine without first talking to your doctor.
  • Create a screening plan and stick to it. The best time to develop a screening plan for a possible recurrence or a new, second breast cancer is while you're being treated. Together, you and your doctor can create a screening plan that's best for your unique situation. Your plan may include frequent exams by your doctor, breast self-exams, mammograms, or other imaging techniques, such as MRI. After your treatment is done, you may be tempted to skip some follow-up screening tests. Don't -- you need to take good care of you and your future.

While you can't control everything, such as your family history, you can lower your risk by taking charge of those things you can. You may be able to make changes in your diet and lifestyle to reduce your risk of breast cancer. Visit the Breastcancer.org Lower Your Risk section to learn more.

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