Friends For Life: Understanding Triple Negative Breast Cancer

(WLNS) – All this week 6 News has shared stories of people dealing with breast cancer. There is one form of breast cancer that can be aggressive and difficult to treat. It’s called Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

According to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation there are subtypes of breast cancer that are generally diagnosed based upon the presence, or lack of, three “receptors” known to fuel most breast cancers: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). The most successful treatments for breast cancer target these receptors.

This is were the challenge can be for some women. Unfortunately, none of these receptors are found in women with triple negative breast cancer. In other words, a triple negative breast cancer diagnosis means:

– The offending tumor is estrogen receptor-negative
– It is progesterone receptor-negative
– It is also HER2-negative

On a positive note, this type of breast cancer is can be responsive to chemotherapy. Because of its triple negative status, however, triple negative tumors generally do not respond to receptor targeted treatments. Depending on the stage of its diagnosis, triple negative breast cancer can be particularly aggressive, and more likely to recur than other subtypes of breast cancer.

Tips for communicating with your health care team:

– Write down questions as they arise. Bring those questions to your next medical appointment
– Take notes. Ask a friend to accompany you to take notes or ask your doctor if you can record your visits for later review
– Find someone on your team who can serve as your advocate. That could be a nurse, social worker or someone else. Remember that YOU are a key member of that team

You can find more recommendations on finding with emotional support and managing the side effects of treatments in this pdf from the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation triple negative breast cancer occurs in about 10-20% of diagnosed breast cancers and is more likely to affect younger people, African Americans, Hispanics, and/or those with a BRCA1 gene mutation. Triple negative breast cancer can be more aggressive and difficult to treat. Also, the cancer is more likely to spread and recur. The stage of breast cancer and the grade of the tumor will influence your prognosis.

Sources: The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, The National Breast Cancer Foundation

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