In medical and cancer terminology, a relapse (or recurrence) refers to the return of a disease after a period in which the disease seemed to be going away (remission). A relapse can occur at any stage of cancer remission.
In some cases, a certain therapy may be shrinking a tumor until, suddenly, the cancer begins to grow again. Other times, a therapy may seem to have totally killed all cancer cells. Then, weeks, months or even years later, the cancer reappears. Most cancer relapses occur within 2 years after treatment. Risk of relapse lowers as time goes on, but it is possible for cancer to return as much as 5 to 10 years or more after the end of treatment.
There are a few reasons why cancer might come back. One reason is that the original treatment did not get rid of all the cancer cells. For example, a surgery to remove a tumor might leave behind a small bit of cancerous tissue that is too small to see. In other cases, the cancer may have discretely spread to another part of the body, so that the cancer can re-grow elsewhere even when the original tumor site is clear. Sometimes, cancer may mutate to become resistant to cancer drugs, leading to relapse. This is referred to as drug or multi-drug resistance and is something that cancer researchers are still trying to overcome. Read more about cancer relapse by clicking here.
According to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, it is likely that multiple myeloma patients will undergo a relapse at some point. It can be extremely disappointing for patients relapse, but thankfully there are still a number of treatments available for relapsed multiple myeloma.
Similarly to the initial cancer treatments before relapse, the type of treatment for relapsed myeloma will depend upon the patient’s overall health, the size of the tumor and its location. Doctors will now also have to consider how effective the original treatment was, and what side-effects occurred. Depending on whether the patient responded well last time or not, doctors may repeat the same treatment as before or try a different one. Targeted drugs show particular promise in this regard, according to the journal Blood. Read that by clicking here.
To reduce the chance of cancer relapse after surgery or treatment, extra treatment afterward might be recommended by a doctor. This could be another dose of chemotherapy, just to be safe. Sometimes a long-term hormone therapy or targeted drug course might be given. This may be referred to as an adjuvant treatment.
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Posted on May 5, 2023