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Breast Cancer Recurrences

Breast Cancer Recurrences

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My oncologist once mentioned that roughly 75% of breast cancer recurrences are metastatic. If this is true, most patients who recur would eventually die after a recurrence. I can't find any substantiation for his remark. Can you tell me whether he is right or not? I am trying to decide whether or not to continue an aromatase inhibitor.

Answer

Kevin R. Fox, MD, Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs and Associate Professor of Hematology/Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Unfortunately, it IS true...of all breast cancer recurrences, 75% or so are metastatic, and about 25% are "local"-only recurrences, meaning they care confined to just the breast region. Metastatic breast cancer carries a median life expectancy of about 2.5 to 3 years. If a patient is taking an aromatase inhibitor to prevent recurrence, I would recommend that she continue.