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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

Breast Cancer Recurrence


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Recurrence is when breast cancer returns. It is not a new cancer.

Learning that breast cancer has returned can be devastating. It can even feel worse than the first diagnosis. You battled the disease once, but now you must face it again. 

To help cope with the emotions that are bound to appear:

  • Take some time to adjust to the news. Maybe even take a day off.
  • Use whatever mechanisms and relationships you used the first time around. You survived cancer at least once. You also have the advantage of everything you learned since then, including thoughts about what you would have done differently.
  • Keep in mind that  the fact of a recurrence by itself is not a cause for guilt or for undue alarm. Rather than focus on the fact that breast cancer came back, it is better to think about what to do about the situation. (To learn how to get past recurrence guilt, click here.)
  • It may help if you think of cancer as a chronic condition like diabetes which sometimes has acute phases.
  • At least one person survives every illness. There is no reason that person isn't you.


A recurrence presents challenges for your medical team. Even if the range of treatments is the same as during your first encounter with cancer, the specifics may be different. Treatment decisions are based on the type of disease, timing of recurrence, location of the recurrence, extent of spread, your overall health, and your personal wishes.

  • If you received chemotherapy, your cancer doctor may recommend a different chemotherapy. 
  • If you received radiation, you cannot generally receive additional radiation in the same area. You can receive it in a different area.
  • There may be newly approved treatments. There may also be cutting edge treatments that are being scientifically investigated which you can access through a controlled process known as a clinical trial.

Before deciding on a treatment:

  • Ask your cancer doctor about:
    • The pros and cons of each potential treatment
    • His or her suggestion 
    • The reasoning behind the suggestion
    • How long you have to make a decision. It is not likely that a decision must be made right away. 
  • With a time frame in mind, get a second opinion from a reputable source such as a doctor at an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center both as to your diagnosis and your treatment. You can find an NCI center by clicking here offsite link.
    • Preferably the opinion should be from a cancer doctor who has a different specialty from the one who initially recommended a treatment. For instance, if you saw a medical oncologist (a doctor who specializes in the use of drugs to treat cancer), see a radiation oncologist (a cancer doctor who specializes in the use of radiation for the treatment of cancer). This is so even if you already had surgery or chemotherapy.  
    • Second opinions are usually covered by insurance.
  • Free transportation to and from medical appointments is available if needed.

If needed, learn how to do medical research by clicking here. There are services you can hire that will research treatments, vet the pros and cons, and make a recommendation. To learn how to find one, click here.

If there are no treatments in the U.S. that can reasonably be said to work for you, it may be worth exploring what is happening in other countries. If you use this option, (known as "medical tourism") be cautious. There are signs to look for to help spot phony treatments. Also see: What Happens If Cancer Treatment Is No Longer Working?

Use the practical experience you have gained to help avoid unwanted side effects and to deal with those you can't avoid. Keep in mind that with time, treatments keep getting smarter with fewer side effects. Plus, the ability to control side effects gets better.

Consider reading Breast Cancer: Newly Diagnosed, Medical for tips about the decision making process and treatments.

Health Insurance/Uninsured

  • If you have health insurance:
    • Do what you have to in order to keep your insurance in force
    • Learn how to maximize your coverage. For information, click here.
  • If you do not have health insurance
    • You can still obtain it, despite your health history. To learn how, click here.
    • In the meantime, our information about Uninsured provides information about alternatives for getting the health care you need without insurance.


If paying for cancer treatment is an issue, or if finances of any type are an issue, see Uninsured and How To Deal With A Financial Crunch Or Crisis.

If your recurrence throws you off balance financially, when things settle, take a few moments to do financial planning that takes account of your health condition. A bit of planning will help maximize your resources. We even have tips about dealing with credit cared debt and negotiating with creditors if that is problem. (If financial planning is difficult for you, ask a trusted family member or friend to do it for you. Planning will help you feel in control.)

Work Issues

Day To Day 

This is not a time to beat yourself up if you haven't been living a cancer preventive diet and lifestyle, or if you have, thinking that you could have done more. As the American Cancer Society says: "Although eating right, exercising, and seeing your doctor for follow-up visits are important, please understand that there probably was nothing you could do to keep your cancer from coming back… Even if you do everything just right, you can't change the possibility that cancer will come back."

Consider using the recurrence as a wake-up call to think about what is important in your life.

Look around you. Is your home environment peaceful and conducive to healing and to a healthy life? If not, do what you can to change it. For instance, repaint walls to restful colors.

Look for humor. It helps. Consider getting a pet. A pet doesn't have to be a cat or a dog to have positive effects and you don't have to sign on for life. For example, you can be a foster parent until the effects of treatment are over.

Planning Ahead

If you haven't before, now is the time to get your legal affairs in order. If you have, check what you did to be sure it still reflects your wishes.

  • For instance, everyone needs an up-to-date will. In fact, we all have one because each state has laws which provide what happens if a person dies without a valid will. But is the state law the way you want your estate to go? NOTE: We are not recommending that you write a will because you had a recurrence. Rather, this is advice we give to everyone all the time, including people who have not been diagnosed with a serious health condition. As we all know, life is fragile.
  • Revisit your Living Will and other advance healthcare directives. Your thoughts may have changed. In any event, it is good to constantly update advance directives by at least adding your initials and the current date. If the documents are updated, expensive delays won't happen while people question whether you still feel this way.
  • Consider preplanning a funeral. Bring the family in on the discussion so you can make it about what everyone wants for themselves instead of focusing on you.

If you have a DNR, remind people you live with not to call 911 in an emergency.


  • Continue to think of non-traditional therapies as complementary to medical treatment rather than instead of medical treatment. To learn about complementary therapies, click here.
  • If getting medical care is difficult because money is the problem, there are alternatives for obtaining free or low cost care described in our information for people who are uninsured.
  • Let your doctor know about everything you put into your body and all treatments you receive. Herbs, supplements and high dose vitamins can cause a drug interaction that interferes with treatments.



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