Could this be a reocurrence of the cancer?

7 answers | Last updated: Nov 24, 2016
Gburgmom asked...

My mother, 77, had a mastectomy in October of 2007. She did not need chemo treatments. Now her red blood count is low and her remaining breast itches. Could this be a reocurrance of the cancer?

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

Your most important action, if you are concerned that your mother's breast cancer has returned, is to make an appointment to see her oncologist and explain the symptoms.  It would be unusual to have the cancer return this fast if your doctors felt that chemotherapy was not needed such a short time ago, but nevertheless it is possible.  When there is a question or concern, you should ask your doctor because he or she knows your mother's case best and is available to perform any tests needed to investigate.

Community Answers

Blondie460 answered...

As a 7 year survivor dignosed at 40 I have come across countless women whom I can't figure out why their oncologists choose the treatments they chemo??? a mistake in my opion....the itching could possibly be the beginning of IBC or another rare form of cancer...Pagets Disease....please please get another opion immediately!  What is her cancer marker at?  I request this blood test every 6 months.  Under 45  I think is considered normal altho mine was 38 the day I started my chemo.   Mine now stays between 4 and 8.  Does she take Femara?

A fellow caregiver answered...

My mother is 79 and had a single breast mastectomy over 10 years ago.  Her doctor did not think it was necessary to have her take chemo, which can be a painful process.  He based this on the type of cancer and where it was found in the removed tissue.  Your mom should be having a mammogram every six months on the other breast as well as checking for changes herself.  If you are concerned about itching then you need to speak to her doctor and have them do an ultrasound.

Claudia413 answered...

As someone with IBC (inflammatory breast cancer), I agree with the person posting above. An itching breast can be a sign of IBC or Paget's disease, so please have those ruled out.  IBC is highly aggressive and needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible.

A fellow caregiver answered...

What do you do when you've had stage3..6 rectal cancer withF-U5 and radiation for about 4 weeks, ended up in the hosptial because the treatment nearly killed you. You were in the hospital nearly 6 weeks before you were well enough from the side effects of the treatment to have the cancer removed. You were not told nor prepared for a permanent colstomy or part of your vagina removed. Bothe your oncologist and your surgeon Quit you so you now have no doctors and still have all kinds of things wrong. Cant always drive, painful legs sides and backs, pain in my back on the left side, prevents me from walking, memory proble\ms.

I am 59. Cancer removed early06 before drs. quit me.. What can I do?

Any help out there

Doctors quit me because I was never on time fo an appointment. I was so weak and no one understands what happens with time after you have this diesease and to through it.



Octoman answered...

I watch a TV programme on Farrah Fawcetts  fight against rectal cancer.She suffered so much I had to record it,and continue watching later I could not bear to keep watching. I am glad I did not have treatment for my seven year old stomach cancer and liver tumors presumed cancers,I watched her enter the Proton emmision scanneras as I as I had done five years ago and finding her liver tumors were no longer active as my tumors were not ,but her cancer came back and she died . I survived.She was a a very brave lady .II does not seem fair I have  suffered very little I at 79 years old and lived..Every day is a bonus for me.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Re: 77 year old Breast Cancer Patient. I hope by now, there has been some investigation of her symptoms. I agree with Dr. Putnam that your mother should be seen by an oncologist immediately. I do not agree that breast cancer can not seem to reoccur so soon after treatment. It is my understanding that doctors usually treat much older women with a surgery and leave out the aggressive chemo efforts to avoid serious complications. It is my anecdotal experience that many surgeons and oncologists send most women, young and old, off for surgery without performing a complete staging workup (CAT scan of the chest, abdomen, pelvis and bone scan) beforehand. Thus, it is a shock to learn that the cancer has spread. For excuse's sake, it is labeled as a recurrence, when it really isn't, it was just there anyway, and health care as it is, and doctors, as stubborn as they are, just did not bother to evaluate.

I can't explain the itching, other than the prosthesis and the bra that she is wearing could also be playing a role, unless it is symptomatic of underlying disease that will be evaluated by the oncologist.

I do not know when the question was posted, but I thought it was important to clarify some information to pass along to others.

As for the role of tumor markers and tracking progress of the disease, I had been living since a young age with Stage 3B breast cancer. In the beginning, I had tumor markers. When I was experiencing weird symptoms, and a mistake was made on a radiology report saying everything was clear (later they found it wasn't), 3 oncologists failed to listen to what I was reporting because it contradicted the test results. They failed to double check the PET/CT with a bone scan (PET scans, by the way, are not accurately in diagnosing all types of bone tumors) and declared me cured. Oops....

They saw the stupid thing spreading, I knew it was the breast cancer, but I was not believed, because I DID NOT HAVE POSITIVE TUMOR MARKERS!!!!

I still don't, even though now diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. Some women are lucky to have them. I later learned from a well-known oncologist, and I have to explain repeatedly to this day (like today, when another oncologist said I was doing so well, I had no positive tumor markers), why the test is not that accurate and 50% of the time, women do not come up with positive tumor markers. So, it must be understood, the tumor marker test is not a reliable indicator for some, and should a doctor rely solely on them and mislead a gal, grill the oncologist about the test, or do so, after googling. 1-800-4-Cancer is the number for the National Cancer Institute and is a good resource to go over the latest treatment options and symptoms.

As for the other gal who is suffering from the side-effects of treatment for the other cancer, I can tell you that doctors are getting nasty....even with cancer patients. I had one doctor make me wait 3 weeks for an appointment. The gal picking me up was late, and I called to give the office the courtesy of the head's up. They canceled, just as I was arriving at the cancer center. I don't know. Be on time, or else. I have the same issues. If you are chemo-brained, and not focused, they don't like it either. But, if you have to wait for 3 hours, even if you are on time, that's okay. I'm beginning to feel like going to the MD is not for the ill, or very ill, but offices expect patients to be as presentable as for a job interview. Makes no sense. Terrible.

Try contacting your local county social worker for support services in your area, and the American Cancer Society for other resources. There is an office on Civil Rights for doctors who discriminate. Good luck, and I need some too!!