Is secondary breast cancer the same as a recurrence?


I posted a question about the potential to develop secondary cancer and whether it was greater for HER+ve than it is for HER-ve.  I received a reply which was helpful, but mainly spoke about it being a recurrence of BC.  I was under the impression that secondary cancer was not a recurrence, and has specific symptoms of its own.  Please would you clarify or confirm which it is?

Thank you

@Adrift2018 Not sure if this helps, but sharing in case it does. During my initial consultation with my oncologist I raised a number of clarifications regarding recurrence. One was actually the terms recurrence & spread, as the vocabulary I saw online appeared to vary quite a bit. She explained that recurrence can be either “local” or “distant”. If it’s a local recurrence that would mean your original BC has come back in the same breast (& same type so still Primary BC). If it’s a distant recurrence that would mean the BC has spread to another organ in the body. So when I see secondary BC mentioned I relate that to a distant recurrence. That explanation by my oncologist made it much easier for me when doing subsequent reading. 

TDG thank you for that clear explanation. I had been confused because it appears there can by symptoms with secondary cancer, but often none with primary BC. 

Hi Adrift2018 

Thank you for posting and asking for clarification about the terms secondary breast cancer and recurrence

Recurrence is the term used for cancer that has come back after treatment. There are several different types of breast cancer recurrence, depending on where in the body the cancer has returned. 

As @ATG says secondary breast cancer is when breast cancer cells spread through the blood or lymphatic systems from the primary breast cancer to other parts of the body. Secondary breast cancer can also be referred to as distant recurrence, stage 4 cancer or metastatic breast cancer. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer and to contact your treatment team should you be worried about new and persistent changes in your body. 

Secondary breast cancer is not the same as a local breast cancer recurrence, which means the breast cancer has come back in the breast, chest, armpit or skin near your original cancer.  

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