Breast Cancer Recurrence in the Skin

Last Modified: January 22, 2006


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I had breast cancer 12 years ago, treated with a lumpectomy and Adriamycin-based chemo plus radiation. The breast cancer has recurred as skin cancer with little lumps all over my body. It has been determined that it is treatable with hormone therapy. Are there resources for information on this recurrence?


Suzanne M. McGettigan, MSN, CRNP, AOCN, Board Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner and a Certified Oncology Advanced Practice Nurse, responds:

Breast cancer can recur in the skin both locally (on the breast) or distantly (the skin outside the area of the breast). There are different treatment options based on the pattern of relapse, but hormonal therapy is an important component of the treatment. Based on the description in this situation, it appears the cancer has recurred in skin areas outside of the breast region, which would be considered metastatic. A biopsy of the skin lesions is generally recommended to confirm this diagnosis.

Hormonal therapy may be used to treat recurrent breast cancer, whether that recurrence is in the local skin and is considered a local recurrence, or it is in skin outside of the breast region and considered a distant recurrence. Information on hormonal therapy for recurrent breast cancer is the same as that for hormonal therapy used in the adjuvant setting. Hormonal therapy is generally used for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. Hormonal therapy often consists of an aromatase inhibitor for post-menopausal women.

Other treatments for localized recurrence of breast cancer in the skin can include radiation therapy, hyperthermia, and photodynamic therapy. These treatments would not be considered for widespread recurrence in the skin.

You will probably have a hard time finding information specific to a skin relapse, but any information about recurrent disease should be relevant.