Cancer recurrence is defined as the return of cancer after treatment and after a period of time during which the cancer cannot be detected. (The length of time is not clearly defined.) The same cancer may come back in the same place where it first started or in another place in the body.Mesothelioma cancer is a cancer with very poor cure rate so the chances of recurrence after a seemingly successful treatment is unfortunately very high.
Progression is when cancer spreads or gets worse. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between recurrence and progression. For example, if cancer has been gone for only 3 months before it comes back, was it ever really gone? Is this a recurrence or progression?
Chances are this is not a recurrence. It is likely 1 of 2 things happen in cases like this. One is that, in spite of what the tests showed, the cancer was never completely gone. Sometimes, even with surgery, small clusters of cancer cells that cannot be seen or found on scans can be left behind. Over time they grow large enough to be detected or cause symptoms. These cancers tend to be very aggressive, or fast-growing.
The second possibility is that the cancer may be resistant or refractory to treatment. Chemotherapy or radiation may have killed most of the cancer cells, but some of them were not affected or changed to survive despite the treatment. Any cancer cells left behind can then grow and show up again.
The shorter the time between when the cancer was thought to be gone and the time it came back, the more serious the situation. Most doctors would agree that 3 months of appearing to be cancer-free is too short to be considered a recurrence if the cancer does come back. Although there is no standard period of time in the definition of recurrence, most doctors consider it a cancer recurrence if you have had no signs of cancer for at least a year. If your cancer has been gone for only 3 months, this would most likely be a progression of your disease. In this case, the doctors would assume that the cancer (even though they could not find it in any of the tests) never totally went away.
There are different types of recurrence:
-Local recurrence means that the cancer has come back at the same place where it first started.
– Regional recurrence means that the cancer has come back in the lymph nodes near the place where it started.
-Distant recurrence means the cancer has come back in another part of the body, some distance from where it started (often the lungs, liver, bone marrow, or brain).
If you have a cancer recurrence, your doctor can give you the best information about what type of recurrence you have and what it means to have that type.
What is the risk of recurrence?
The risk of recurrence for cancer survivors is very high in mesothelioma cancer, most patients do not survive beyond at most a year after diagnosis.Although there are few documented cases of long term survivors of mesothelioma, they are far and in between.The survival rate of each case of mesothelioma is dependent on a number of factors and if you find yourself haunted by questions about your chance of recurrence, talk with your doctor about the realistic chance of recurrence in your specific situation. You may find this information reassuring or somewhat unsettling. Whatever information you get, remember that each person’s situation is unique, no matter what statistics you are given. There may be factors that may make your case different from the usual.
You may want to ask your doctor or nurse questions like these if you are concerned about recurrence:
-Is it possible that my cancer can come back?
-When is it most likely to come back?
-Where would it most likely come back?
-How likely is it to come back? (numbers and statistics)
-Is there anything I can do keep it from coming back?
-How can I know if it’s back? What should I look for?