Triple Negative Breast Cancer

The risk factors for triple negative breast cancer are not clear and seemingly anyone can get it…
Triple negative breast cancer is relatively rare and accounts for 15-20% of breast cancers. You are said to have this form of breast cancer when a pathology report says the cancer cells tested negative for progesterone and estrogen receptors and HER2. These results mean the cancer’s growth is not supported by estrogen or progesterone or by the presence of an excess number of HER2 receptors.

As a result, women with triple negative breast cancer cannot be treated with hormonal therapy or other therapies, including Herceptin, which target HER receptors. Tests for this type of cancer are the same as for more common forms – with a biopsy of the breast taken (a piece of tissue) and examined under a microscope.

Causes & Risk Factors

The risk factors for triple negative breast cancer are not clear and seemingly anyone can get it, but researchers have found the following groups of people are the most likely to suffer from it:

  • Younger People: While other forms of breast cancer are more prominent in women over the age of 60, triple negative breast cancer is likely to happen between the ages of 40 and 50.
  • Hispanic & African-American Women: African-American women appear to be most likely to have triple negative breast cancer with Hispanic women the second most likely. Studies show that black women are 200% more likely to develop this form of cancer than white women.
  • Those Affected By BRCA1 Mutation: Some women with the condition have a faulty gene called BRCA1. When women under the age of 50 with an inherited BRCA1 mutation have breast cancer, it is usually triple negative.

Negative Breast Cancer Grading

This relates to the appearance of cancerous cells when viewed under

the microscope. There are three grades of triple negative breast cancer:

  • Grade 1: Low-Grade
  • Grade 2: Moderate Grade
  • Grade 3: High Grade

Triple negative breast cancer is usually Grade 3, which means the cancerous cells develop more quickly.
Treatments

While some of the therapies used in traditional forms of cancer are not usable, there are many alternatives:

1. Surgery: The type of surgery you have depends on the position and size of the cancer. A mastectomy is when the entire breast is removed and is a course of action taken when the cancerous lump is very large or if there are several cancerous growths. A lumpectomy is the removal of a lump and is usually followed by radiotherapy.

2. Radiotherapy: This involves the use of high-energy rays as a means of destroying the cancer cells; while trying not to damage normal cells. Radiotherapy treatment is usually a daily process lasting 10 to 15 minutes per session, which carries on for about three weeks.

3. Chemotherapy: This is more common than radiotherapy and is the use of drugs to kill cancerous cells. This medication is designed to reduce the chance of the cancer growing back. Chemotherapy is normally performed on low-grade cancer and the drugs may be given via an injection or in tablet form.

After the above treatments, you may feel tired and will need regular check-ups at first. You should discuss any concerns you have with your physician during these appointments.

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