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In the latest health news, it has been discovered that breast cancer can return as long as 15 years after successful treatment. This is another devastating blow to cancer patients who have been given the all-clear, as they may now have to wait over a decade to confirm the cancer has not spread or resurfaced.

Researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine made the discovery after analysing 63,000 women who had breast cancer over 20 years. It means that even if a cancer sufferer is declared in complete remission, breast cancer can lie dormant for 15 years before resurfacing once again.

Hormone therapy could reduce risk of recurrence

The study showed that women who originally had large tumours, and cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes, were most at risk of the cancer coming back within the next 15 years.  These women had a 40% chance of the cancer returning, while those with smaller cancers with no spread had a 10% chance.

Hormone therapy drugs, such as tamoxifen, are diagnosed to people with this type of breast cancer which is affected by oestrogen. The treatments can block the effects of the hormone, which can stimulate cancer cells to grow. Currently, those finishing treatment for breast cancer are given tamoxifen for five years, which can reduce the risk of recurrence. In light of this new study, extending the hormone therapy treatment to 10 years should be recommended to further prevent the breast cancer returning.

A constant worry

Anybody who has had cancer, or knows someone who has gone through treatment, understands how horrific it can be. Even when the treatment is successful, you have a constant doubt at the back of your mind that it could return at any point. Cancer patients in remission will go for regular check-ups to make sure this is not the case, and any cancer recurrence is spotted as early as possible. However, 15 years is a long time to wait for the all-clear, and it can be difficult to support someone through this long journey.

If you’re worried about cancer or need help supporting someone through the disease, see your GP or talk to a cancer charity.

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On December 16, 2017
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