I have had breast cancer, what are my chances of getting it again?

Answer: Since you have had breast cancer, your risk of developing another new breast cancer, either in the original breast or the opposite breast, is higher. All women have a 13% chance of developing breast cancer in their life time. If you have a ductal carcinoma, either invasive or non-invasive, the risk goes up to 18%. If you have a lobular carcinoma the risk can be as high as 28% for developing a new breast cancer. Finally, if you have a BRCA gene deletion, which fortunately only occurs in 5% of women who have breast cancer, your risk can be as high as 87%. The highest risk for a new cancer is in the first several years after the initial cancer presents itself. Every year thereafter, the risk decreases.

Medications like Tamoxifen will decrease the risk of a recurrence by 2% from the percentages shown here. But Tamoxifen does not give any survival benefit for those women who take it to prevent a future cancer.

This high risk is why it is so important for women who have had a breast cancer to be followed closely by somebody who is an expert at detecting breast cancers, so if one occurs, hopefully it will be detected early.

I always tell my patients that we will have a hair trigger when it comes to new lumps of mammogram findings. If a small group of calcifications appears on their mammogram which may have been watched in the general public, in a case where a woman has had a previous cancer, it should be biopsied sooner rather than later. New lumps should also always be sampled.