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How to avoid a cancer Recurrence

Definition of Cancer Recurrence:
Cancer that has recurred (come back), usually after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected. The cancer may come back to the same place as the original (primary) tumor or to another place in the body. Also called recurrent cancer.
Source: The website of the National Cancer Institute

Getting the “all clear”.


“If you don’t ‘Stop Making Cancer’, it doesn’t matter how good anyone is at getting rid of it, it will come back.”

Dr. Thomas Lodi, MD, MD(H), IMD, DHS

Many patients, when given the “all clear”, breathe a sigh of relief and go back to the lifestyle they lived before being diagnosed with cancer. But, all too often the patient enjoys short-term remission only, followed by a deadly recurrence.

There are a number of reasons for this, including:

The Role of Cancer Stem Cells in Cancer Recurrence and Metastasis

Because of their relatively slow rate of proliferation, cancer stem cells (CSCs) may be resistant to chemotherapeutic strategies that target rapidly dividing cancer cells. Moreover, the tumor microenvironment and dysregulated stemness pathways may provide additional protection against chemotherapy and radiation.

Although chemotherapy and radiation may kill most of the cells in the tumor, CSCs that are not eradicated may lead to regrowth or recurrence of the tumor either at the primary site or at distant sites.
Source: Boston Biomedical

Types of Recurrent Cancer

Doctors describe recurrent cancer by where it develops and how far it has spread. The different types of recurrence are:

Some cancer types result in higher recurrence rates than others.

Here are some examples:

Breast cancer
This 2018 study of 8,062 breast cancer patients says:…4.7% of the patients experienced a local recurrence within 10 years, 3.0% was diagnosed with a regional recurrence and in 15.0% of the patients a distant metastasis occurred.

This study of 702 patients with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer [TNBC] concluded: Sixteen percent of patients with early stage TNBC experienced recurrence, with 3 and 5 year recurrence rates being 12.4% and 15.3%, respectively.

An estimated 85% of patients with epithelial ovarian cancer who achieve a full remission following first-line therapy will develop recurrent disease. Read study.

Soft tissue sarcomas recur in approximately 50% of patients after adjuvant chemotherapy. Read study.

Almost 30% of patients with breast cancer who are free of disease after initial local and regional treatments present with disease recurrence during follow-up. Read study.

In  this study 32 of the 90 patients with Pancreatic cancer who underwent curative surgery had a recurrence within 1 year.

Add to this the many patients who die from the treatments (chemo etc) that are more toxic than the cancer they are supposed to heal.

The authors of this study at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins said: Although most patients with cancer respond to therapy, few are cured. Moreover, objective clinical responses to treatment often do not even translate into substantial improvements in overall survival.

Oesophageal cancer
This study followed 57 oesophageal cancer patients who underwent curative surgery for 18.5 months, during which 28 recurrences were detected (50.9%). The study authors said most recurrences will occur during the 2 years after surgery and the prognosis is poor…

Ovarian cancer
In this 2021 article, Chirag Shah, MD, MPH, Swedish Cancer Institute, says: The biggest issue with women with ovarian cancer is that, although they respond well to frontline chemotherapy as our patient in this hypothetical example did by ending up with a complete remission, there is high relapse rate: 70% to 80% of patients that reach a remission will still have recurrent disease. Unfortunately, a significant proportion will have disease recurrence in less than 6 months.

Colon cancer
This 2020 study says: A total of 120 patients were included in this study; 61 were males (50.8%) and 59 were females (49.2%). According to our findings, the recurrence rate in patients who underwent surgical resection with adjuvant chemotherapy was 15.6% (n = 10), while the recurrence rate in patients with surgery alone was 21.4% (n = 12). Cancer recurrence is associated with significant morbidity and mortality.

Rectal cancer
This 2019 study says: During the study period, 188 patients underwent curative surgery for rectal adenocarcinoma, among which 53 had a recurrence. The recurrence rate was 44.6% at 5 years.

CANCER FREE! Are You SURE?
By Jenny Hrbacek
Source: cancerfreeareyousure.com

I spent 4 years and some $40,000 learning what my oncology team did not tell me. And I share it all with you. This book gives you a clear roadmap – what the tests are, what they look for, how to order them, the degree of accuracy, what they cost, and more. I also give you the big picture as to what causes cancer so you are empowered to prevent it. And if you are in treatment, I tell you how you can avoid the toxic one-size-fits-all standard of care that opens the door for far too many of us to have a recurrence of cancer. Did you know that 90% of people who get a recurrence die within 5 years? Don’t let that be you. Find cancer early – get tested.


Early detection can give you lots of time to change your diet and lifestyle before the disease has time to develop into full blown cancer.

The Tests page has information about a range of early cancer detection tests you can consider.

To help stay cancer-free please see these 32 Cancer Prevention tips.

Note: cancerireland.ie has no financial or other involvement with any of the products or services listed on this site.


About Cancer

Page updated 2023

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