PreventionBy Mayo Clinic staff
Nothing can guarantee your breast cancer won't return. Most women who are treated for early-stage breast cancer remain free of disease. Many people who experience a cancer recurrence blame themselves for not eating right, missing a doctor visit or something else. It's important to realize that even if you do everything just right, the cancer might return.
Things that have been shown to reduce the risk of recurrent breast cancer are:
- Tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor therapy. After initial treatment for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, taking tamoxifen for five years reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Other research suggests that some women would benefit even more by switching to an aromatase inhibitor after taking tamoxifen for two to three years or after five years, or by taking an aromatase inhibitor instead of tamoxifen. The decision needs to be made on an individual basis based on your particular cancer.
- Chemotherapy. For women at high risk of cancer recurrence, chemotherapy has been shown to decrease the chance it will recur, and those who receive chemotherapy live longer.
- Radiation therapy. Women who've had a breast-sparing operation to treat their breast cancer and those who had a large tumor or inflammatory breast cancer have a lower chance of the cancer recurring if they're treated with radiation therapy.
- Trastuzumab (Herceptin). For women whose cancer makes extra HER2 protein, the drug trastuzumab can decrease the chance of the cancer recurring.
- Healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight for your age and height may help decrease the risk of recurrent breast cancer.
Research looking at specific aspects of diet — such as fruits and vegetables and fat — and risk of recurrent breast cancer hasn't been conclusive.
- Hurria A. Follow-up for breast cancer survivors: Patterns of relapse and long-term complications of therapy. http://www.uptodateonline.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 19, 2011.
- Breast cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003090-pdf.pdf. Accessed March 17, 2011.
- Punglia RS, et al. Local therapy and survival in breast cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. 2007;356:2399.
- Hayes DF. Overview of treatment for locally advanced, recurrent, and metastatic breast cancer. http://uptodateonline.com/index. Accessed March 19, 2011.
- What you need to know about breast cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/breast/AllPages/Print. Accessed March 19, 2011.
- Living with uncertainty: The fear of cancer recurrence. American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MLT/content/MLT_4_1x_Living_With_Uncertainty_-_The_Fear_of_Cancer_Recurrence.asp. Accessed March 19, 2011.
- Hirsch A, et al. Management of locoregional recurrence of breast cancer after mastectomy. http://www.uptodateonline.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 19, 2011.
- Debled M et al.Prognostic factors of early distant recurrence in hormone receptor-positive, postmenopausal breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant tamoxifen therapy: Results of a retrospective analysis. Cancer. 2007;109:2197.
- Rausch SM, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine: Use and disclosure in radiation oncology community practice. Supportive Care Cancer. 2011;19:521.
- Pruthi S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 11, 2011.