“What symptoms should I report to the hospital?”

“What symptoms should I report to the hospital?”

Breast Cancer Care’s experts answer your questions about breast cancer and its treatment

PiNK 2018 SUMMER p.15

Q: I’ve just finished treatment, and I’m worried about my breast cancer coming back. What symptoms should I report to the hospital?

A: Most people have no more problems after their treatment. But sometimes breast cancer can come back, and it’s normal to worry about this happening.

Having breast cancer means you have a slightly higher risk of developing a new primary breast cancer compared to someone who’s never had breast cancer. Whatever type of surgery you had, be aware of any changes to the breast, chest or surrounding area, even if you’re still having follow-up appointments or regular mammograms. A new primary breast cancer can occur in the same breast after breast- conserving surgery, or in the other breast.

Sometimes breast cancer can come back in the chest or breast area, or the skin near the original site or scar. This is local recurrence. If breast cancer comes back and spreads to the tissues and lymph nodes around the chest, neck and under the breastbone, it’s called locally advanced breast cancer.

Get used to how your scar feels, and check any remaining breast tissue, under your arm and the area around your neck regularly. If you notice a change, contact your hospital team if you’re still under their care, or see your GP to get it checked.

If breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it’s called secondary breast cancer. Secondary breast cancer is most likely to develop in the bones, lungs, liver and brain. And while it can be controlled, sometimes for many years, it can’t be cured.

Many symptoms of secondary breast cancer are similar to those of other conditions; but if you notice a different or new symptom that persists and isn’t related to general coughs, colds or aches and pains, report it to your hospital team or GP.

It’s difficult to list all of them, but symptoms to be aware of include:

• Pain in your bones, such as the back, hips or ribs, that doesn’t improve with pain relief or lasts for more than one to two weeks and is often worse at night
• Unexplained weight loss and a loss of appetite
• Constantly feeling sick
• Discomfort or swelling under the ribs or across the lower abdomen
• Feeling constantly tired
• A dry cough or a feeling of breathlessness
• Severe or ongoing headaches
• Altered vision or speech