TNBC: Risks and fear of recurrence


Video: Living with a history of triple-negative breast cancer

Two women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, discuss their diagnosis, life after treatment, and how they have each moved forward while living with a history of TNBC.


The risk of recurrence, or breast cancer coming back, is highest in the first 5 years after a diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer. Aggressive cancer cells may travel from the breast to other parts of the body. These cells move through the bloodstream and pathways called the lymphatic channels, which carry fluid away from the breast to the lymph nodes. The goal of chemotherapy is to kill these stray cells and lower your risk of recurrence.

After 5 years, your risk of recurrence goes down. In fact, as time goes on, your risk for recurrence may be lower than that of someone treated for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

If you still have breast tissue after surgery, the risk for developing a new breast cancer in the same or opposite breast does not decrease over time. Keep up with regular doctor’s appointments and mammograms to find any new breast cancer.

Most people with triple-negative breast cancer don’t have a recurrence or develop a new cancer. But you may be overwhelmed by worries about breast cancer returning. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can bring these emotions to the surface, as can news about a friend, family member, or a famous person’s diagnosis. Your fears may be stronger before you go for follow-up appointments and when you wait for test results. To lower your anxiety, try some of our self-care tips to manage stress and anxiety.

Consider seeking emotional support through counseling, a support group, or other programs. Talking with someone who understands can help a great deal in reducing your anxiety and stress.


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Reviewed and updated: April 18, 2018

Reviewed by: Lisa Carey, MD, FASCO


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