Recurrent breast cancer


For many women, treatment is successful and breast cancer does not come back. But for some, breast cancer comes back in the breast that was treated or in other parts of the body.  

This is why regular follow-up is essential after treatment for early breast cancer. 

We don’t know why breast cancer comes back in some women but not in others. But some factors – like your age, genetic makeup, the aggressiveness of the tumour or how far the cancer has spread when diagnosed – can increase the risk of recurrence. 

Doctors use the information in the pathology report to work out how likely it is that breast cancer will come back or spread to other parts of the body. 

Information in the pathology report

The breast cancer is less likely to come back or spread if:

The breast cancer is more likely to come back or spread if:


Cancer is smaller than 2 cm 

Cancer is larger than 2 cm 

Lymph nodes in the armpit

No cancer cells in the lymph nodes 

Cancer cells in the lymph nodes 

Hormone receptors

Cancer cells have hormone receptors (and the woman takes hormonal therapy) 

Cancer cells do not have hormone receptors 

HER2 status

Cancer cells are HER2-negative 

Cancer cells are HER2-positive 


Grade of cancer is low (Grade 1) 

Grade of cancer is high (Grade 3) 

Surgical margin

Surgical margin is clear 

Surgical margin is not clear 

Lifestyle factors

Maintaining wellbeing after treatment for breast cancer includes maintaining a healthy diet, and physical activity and exercise.  

A healthy diet involves eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruit, limiting intake of saturated fats, and limiting alcohol consumption. Exercise has been shown to improve emotional wellbeing and reduce fatigue, even during radiotherapy or chemotherapy. [2][3]