Surgery | Surgical Oncology Questions Tumor removal

How often do tumors come back after being removed?

I have a malignant tumor on my left breast and we are going to remove it. I'm just nervous about it coming back. How often do tumors come back after being removed?

4 Answers

This is a complicated question with many layers to it.
To start, it depends on the type of tumor you have. If the tumor is malignant (or cancerous), then there is a much higher risk of it recurring compared to if the tumor is benign.
The size of the tumor may also predict a higher chance of a tumor coming back where large tumors are much more likely to recur - given the total surface area - versus small tumors.

The way the cells look under the microscope may also predispose someone to a higher risk of recurrence. If the cells are more orderly and look like normal tissue, then these tumors are less likely to come back, while tumors that are highly mutated and look nothing like that normal tissue, have a higher risk of recurrence.

After surgery for breast cancer, depending on the type of surgery and the location of the tumor, radiation may be recommended. This is to reduce the chance of the tumor coming back. So with some tumors where patients undergo breast conservation, radiation may be offered to reduce that risk.

The stage of the tumor will also affect the risk of recurrence. If the tumor has spread to lymph nodes (stage III), then the risk of cancer coming back is much higher.

There are many layers to this question, but a comprehensive treatment plan should be undertaken to get the best treatment and to reduce the chance that a tumor recurs.
Every cancer is different. Triple negative breast cancers return in a median of 3 years while estrogen receptor positive breast cancers return in a median of 7 years, if they return at all. You should talk to your surgeon and oncologist about this likelihood, which usually is fairly low with the most common presenting breast cancers. If the cancer has already spread to lymph nodes the risk is higher, but again, it depends.

Higher risk cancers will benefit from chemotherapy to avoid/reduce this risk of recurrence. There are certain tests like Oncotype DX that are used to help make this determination in cancers that have no obvious evidence of spread.
Recurrence depends on the biology of the tumor. Sine have a higher risk of coming back. So the treatment matters. Surgery has to have widely free margins. Radiation must be part of the treatment and chemo if recommended is also important to decrease risk of recurrence
If patients treat the cancer as recommended by their surgical team, the risk of the cancer returning in general is quite low. To specifically quote rates of recurrence is not possible without knowing the exact details of your cancer and treatment recommendations, however, the chance of it coming back in the local area (Breast and lymph nodes) in general should be well under 10%. The chance of it coming back somewhere else in the body is a different calculation and beyond what I can answer in a general manner without specific information. You should discuss this in detail with your treatment team