Max Wicha, M.D., speaks to Prevention about what causes breast cancer to return

Once you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you live with the fear of recurrence forever. Now, groundbreaking research is shedding new light on what makes cancer return–and what causes breast cancer in the first place.

Each woman’s risk of recurrence varies individually, based on clues about her cancer’s behavior. For example, a fast-growing tumor is more likely to have spread beyond the breast before it was discovered; so is later-stage cancer that has already crept into the lymph nodes. That’s why recurrence rates vary by stage of diagnosis.

Other numbers don’t even make intuitive sense. For women with an aggressive form of breast cancer, recurrences are more likely to occur in the first 4 years, after which the odds drop rapidly. On the other hand, for slower-growing cancers, the risk generally lingers far longer.

"Initially, those women have a better prognosis," says Max Wicha, MD, director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center. "However, the risk that the cancer could come back still exists further out. Some cancers return fifteen years later, maybe more than twenty years. That is where women have a much harder time dealing with this psychologically."

For the full article from Prevention, click here.

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