Many people who have been treated for breast cancer are afraid that the cancer is still there or that it will come back. These fears are normal and reasonable. Getting support from friends, family, therapists or support groups are all ways to help handle this anxiety. If you find that your fears are not easing over time, or that it interferes with your quality of life, you should talk to your doctor.
On average, 5 to 10 percent of women with early breast cancer have a local recurrence after treatment, meaning cancer will return to the breast, chest or lymph nodes in the armpit – this is called second primary breast cancer. This risk is even higher for women who have a very strong family history or a mutation in one of the BRCA genes. In addition, the risk actually reaches beyond breast cancer to include an increased risk of certain other cancers as well, particularly ovarian cancer.
Fortunately, there are steps survivors can take to lower their risk of getting cancer again. For all survivors, the most important step is to get regular medical care after treatment. For those who are being treated with tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, one of the best things to do is to continue to take the drugs regularly for the prescribed time. Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors not only lower the risk of having cancer come back but also lower the risk of second primary breast cancers.