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Personal Cancer History

Having previously had some types of cancer, as a child or an adult, leads to a moderate-to-high increase in the risk of developing breast cancer. 

Personal History of Invasive Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can recurRecurrence:
Cancer that returns after treatment.
soon after the first cancer was diagnosed and treated or many years later. It can return in the same breast as the original cancer, in the other breast or in another part of the body. 

Having a personal history of breast cancer also increases the risk of developing a new cancer in the same breast or in the opposite breast. The risk of a new breast cancer is lower than the risk of recurrence.

The risk that breast cancer will return depends on several factors: the size, type, and gradeGrade:
A way of classifying cancer that describes how aggressive the cancer is likely to be (i.e., how fast it will grow and spread).
of the original cancer; its receptorReceptor:
Cells have many different proteins on their surface called receptors. Her-2 is one kind of receptor. In normal cells, HER-2 receptors are thought to be involved in cell growth and reproduction. In some breast cancers, there are too many HER-2 receptors and they speed up cancer cell growth.
status; if any lymph nodesLymph nodes:
Small structures that filter lymph fluid for harmful substances. They contain immune cells that can help fight infection by attacking and destroying germs. Cancer can travel through the lymphatic system spread to the lymph nodes.
were affected and how many; how it responded to treatment; and the time since diagnosis. Evidence suggests that for women who have had chemotherapyChemotherapy:
A treatment method that uses medication to destroy cancer cells.
or hormone therapyHormone therapy:
A treatment method for breast cancer that uses medication to block the production of the hormone estrogen, or the way that it works in the body.
in addition to breast cancer surgery, 11% will have a recurrence within 5 years and 20% will have a recurrence within 10 years after treatment for the original cancer ends.

Because having a personal history of breast cancer is a risk factor for recurrence or the development of a new breast cancer, women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer should talk to their health care provider about what follow-up care will include when active cancer treatment ends. It may include the following:

Personal History of DCIS or LCIS

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive type of breast cancer that affects the milk ductsDuct(mammary duct):
A hollow passage for gland secretions. There are ducts in the female and male breast.
in the breast. Although not life threatening, if left untreated about 20-30% of low grade DCIS will develop into invasiveInvasive (breast cancer):
Cancer that spreads from where it started in the breast (i.e., the breast ducts or lobules) into surrounding, healthy breast tissue.
breast cancer. Higher grades of DCIS are associated with a higher risk of developing invasive breast cancer.

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) occurs when abnormal cellsCell:
The basic structural and functional unit of all organisms.
develop in the milk-making glands (lobulesLobules:
Small glands in the breast that produce milk.
) of the breast, LCIS is not considered to be a true cancer, but it is an indicator that a woman is at increased risk for developing invasive breast cancer in either breast in the future. Women diagnosed with LCIS are 7-12 times more likely to develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime, compared to women who do not have LCIS.

Personal History of Hodgkin’s Disease and Other Childhood Cancers

A personal history of a type of cancer known as Hodgkin's diseaseHodgkin’s disease (also called Hodgkin’s lymphoma):
A cancer that begins in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system.
(also known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma) in childhood or early adulthood may increase your risk of developing breast cancer later in life, especially if your previous cancer was treated using radiation therapyRadiation therapy:
(Sometimes called radiotherapy) A treatment method that uses a high energy beam to destroy cancer cells by damaging the DNA of cancer cells so that they can’t continue to grow.
to the chest.  Developing Hodgkin’s disease at an older age (30 or older) does not appear to increase the risk for developing breast cancer.

Studies have found that people who received chest radiation therapy as a child are at an increased risk for breast cancer. Research has also shown that the risk of breast cancer in female survivors of childhood cancers rises with the dose of radiation therapy received.  

Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk 

If you have a personal history of cancer, or had radiation therapy before the age of 30, speak to a health care provider about your primary diagnosis, previous radiation exposure and family cancer history.  They can do an initial assessment of your risk based on your family and medical history, and provide you with a referral to a high risk screening program if available, or to a screening clinic.

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation encourages you to learn about your breast health, breast cancer risk, ways to reduce your risk, and the benefits and limitations of screening for the earlier detection of breast cancer. To inform your decisions, we also encourage you to speak to a health care provider.


Breastcancer.org. LCIS and Breast Cancer Risk. Accessed February 21, 2014.

Brewster, A.M., Hortobagyi, G.N., Broglio, K.R., Kau, S.W., Santa-Maria, C.A., Arun, B., ...and Esteva, F.J. (2008). Residual Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence 5 years after Adjuvant Therapy. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 100 (16), 1179-1183.

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. (2010).  Earlier Detection and Diagnosis of Breast Cancer. Recommendations and Scientific Review from It’s About Time! A Consensus Conference. Toronto, ON: Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Cancer Research UK. Breast cancer risk after Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Accessed March 18, 2014.

Mayo Clinic. Recurrent Breast Cancer.  Accessed June 23, 2014.

National Cancer Institute (US). Late Effects from Childhood/Adolescent Hodgkin Lymphoma Therapy.  Accessed June 23, 2014.

Susan G. Komen. Personal History of Breast Cancer or Other Cancers. Accessed February 21, 2014.