Cancer recurrence happens when cancer returns after treatment and after a period when no cancer could be detected. The timeframe of recurrence can vary. Cancer may return where it previously occurred or in another part of the body.
Recurrent cancers can be referred to as local recurrence, regional recurrence, or distant recurrence.
- Cancer recurrence at the original site is called local recurrence.
- Regional recurrence refers to tumors developing in lymph nodes or tissues near the site of the first cancer.
- Distant recurrence is when cancer spreads far from its original site.
When treatment ends, your physician may outline specific signs or symptoms of recurrence to watch for. A follow-up care plan, including regular visits and screenings, will monitor your health for any unexpected changes. Report any symptoms to your physician immediately.
Patients suspecting cancer recurrence should communicate with their oncologist about any symptoms they experience. As with a primary cancer, treatments for a recurrent cancer can be used to control and eliminate cancer as well as manage pain and side effects. Participating in a clinical trial may also be an option. Treatment for recurring cancer can include surgery, radiation therapy, proton therapy, chemotherapy, or biological therapy.
Treatment Option Considerations
- Type of cancer
- Location of recurrence
- Patient’s general health and age
- Timing of recurrence
- Extent of the spread of the cancer
- Patient’s values and wishes
- Treatment tolerance
- Potential side effects