Breast Cancer Now responds to a new study which has found that breast cancer can return 20 years after diagnosis.

Thursday 9 November 2017      Campaigns and policy

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, funded by Cancer Research UK, has found that the risk of breast cancer recurring remains for at least 20 years after diagnosis, suggesting that hormonal treatments should continue for even longer to reduce the risk of late recurrence.

This major study pooled data from 88 clinical trials involving over 60,000 women who had been diagnosed with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer, and prescribed hormonal therapy, such as tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor, for 5 years. Those who had no recurrence in the first 5 years, stopped treatment, but through further monitoring, the study revealed recurrences of the disease up to 15 years later, 20 years after their initial diagnosis.

Sally Greenbook, Policy Manager at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“This is an important development that could ultimately change the way we use hormone therapies and help women reduce their risk of breast cancer recurrence.

“We’ve always known that breast cancer can return years later, but this major study identifies that women may remain at risk of recurrence for at least 15 years, suggesting that they may benefit from extending their hormone therapy.

“However, as women taking hormone therapies can experience difficult side effects, it’s essential that they discuss any changes in treatment with their doctor to make a decision that’s right for them.

“We would urge all women who have had treatment for breast cancer not to be alarmed, but to ensure they are aware of the signs of recurrence and of metastatic breast cancer, and to speak to their GP or breast care team if they have any concerns.”