No one can blame you with a mountain of questions after receiving a Breast Cancer Diagnosis . This list could be even longer if you receive a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer : What exactly does that mean? How is triple negative breast cancer different from other diagnoses? And how can you make life easier if you have this disease? Here breast cancer experts answer these and other questions.
What is triple negative breast cancer?
It may sound surprising, but in a sense, breast cancer is not really a disease, Erica Mayer, MD, MPH, senior physician at the Susan F. Smith Breast Oncology Center at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, reports SELF. Subtypes of the disease, such as triple negative breast cancer, have features that distinguish them from other forms of the disease.
To fully understand triple negative breast cancer – and what distinguishes it from other breast cancers – you need to know a little about breast cancer receptors .
"Receptors are proteins that are located outside a cancer cell and receive signals from the body that can influence the growth pattern of the cancer cell," Dr. Says Mayer. The receptors that help diagnose breast cancer are estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR), and HER2 protein receptors. Doctors divide breast cancer into some major categories by the presence or absence of these receptors.
Breast cancer with estrogen or progesterone receptors is termed hormone receptor positive, meaning they grow in response to these hormones. Hormone receptor-positive breast cancers account for about two-thirds of all breast cancers, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). "When a cancer cell has the estrogen receptor, the circulating estrogen in the body can stimulate that receptor and stimulate the growth of the cancer cell," explains Dr. Mayer. "If we can block the stimulation of a receptor, we can block the growth and spread of cancer cells. This is the foundation for many of the therapies we use to treat cancer, "explains Dr. Mayer.
Then there are breast cancers that contain too much HER2 protein, which accounts for about 20 percent of the diagnoses, according to ACS. (Some of them are also hormone receptor-positive.) HER2 is a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells, explains the ACS . If you have HER2-positive breast cancer, excess of this protein in the tumor will essentially trigger a "switch" in cancer cells, Leisha Emens, MD, Ph.D., co-head of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program in Pittsburg, tells SELF. Therapies that target the HER2 protein are, so to speak, trying to flip the switch.
Doctors test tumors for all three of these receptors when people undergo breast biopsy as the Mayo Clinic . If the tests for all three receptors are negative, doctors diagnose triple negative breast cancer, which, according to ACS accounts for about 12 percent of all breast cancers.
Physicians Treated All Cases of Triple Breast Cancer Negative Breast Cancer Than Just One Group, But That Changes Rita Nanda, Deputy Director of Breast Medical Oncology at UChicago Medicine, SELF. Physicians now recognize at least four different types of triple negative breast cancer, based on the proteins that express the tumors.
Triple negative-acting breast cancer is considered particularly aggressive. These tumors express genes other than ER / PR-positive and HER2-positive breast cancers, leading to higher risk of relapse . Emens. Targeted therapies for the treatment of ER / PR-positive and HER2-positive breast cancer have not worked in triple negative breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
. The Signs of Triple-negative Breast Cancer
The symptoms of triple-negative breast cancer are no different from other types of breast cancer, Dr. Mayer. ACS These symptoms include:
- A new breast knot that may be hard, tender, painful or painless
- Swelling of the breast
- Chest or nipple sensitivity
- An inverted nipple
- Skin peeling, thickening or redness
- Skin resembling an orange peel
- Nipple discharge
- Swollen lymph nodes
Triple negative breast cancer risk factors
As with so many complicated health conditions, experts are not quite sure certainly what causes triple negative breast cancer. Doctors do not understand for sure what breast cancer generally causes. Mayer, not to mention the complex triple negative shape. However, they have some ideas about risk factors involved .
Much of the discussion about breast cancer risk factors revolves around hormone exposure as most breast cancers grow in response to hormones. However, this is not a problem with triple negative breast cancer, so other factors are central.
In general, the risk of breast cancer increases Mayo Clinic with increasing age. In fact, triple negative breast cancer is more common in premenopausal individuals than older ones, Dr. Nanda. This could be due to the triple negative association of breast cancer with BRCA gene mutations which are common in patients with breast cancer before the age of 50 years.
Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes may increase your risk of breast and ovarian cancer according to CDC . When these genes function normally, they help to suppress tumor growth, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) explains. However, if they have mutations, your cells may divide and change too fast, resulting in cancerous tumors. There is considerable interest in for a possible association between these mutations (especially of the BRCA1 gene) and triple negative breast cancer, although experts do not yet know how closely they might be related.
Keep Remember: Not everyone who suffers from breast cancer (including the triple negative form) or ovarian cancer has a BRCA gene mutation. Nanda. Likewise, not everyone with this gene mutation gets breast cancer or ovarian cancer, as shown by the CDC .
Their racial and racial background may also increase the likelihood of developing triple negative breast cancer. You may have heard that people of Ashkenazi Jewish or Eastern European heritage have a higher risk of getting breast cancer. This also applies to triple negative breast cancer, according to CDC (19459004). (This indicates that people in these groups are at higher risk for BRCA gene mutations .)
Triple negative breast cancer is almost twice as common in black people as it is in white ACS , Doctors have suggested that this inequality could be due to BRCA1 gene mutations occurring more frequently in blacks Nanda. Overall, however, further investigations are needed to establish a clear correlation.
Many potential risk factors play a role when it comes to triple-negative breast cancer, but doctors are still working to find out the cause of the disease.
Treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer
Since triple-negative breast cancer does not respond to targeted treatments for other breast cancers, this raises complex issues regarding treatment.
Currently, experts generally rely on removing as much tumor as possible (either by lumpectomy or mastectomy) chemotherapy according to the Mayo Clinic . Experts are testing immunotherapy options, which can also affect triple negative breast cancer tumors. Ongoing research could lead to targeted treatments for triple-negative breast cancer, says dr. Nanda. If you want to know more about it, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about taking part in a clinical trial. Mayer.
Regardless of the treatment strategy that you and your doctor consider best, self-care is an essential – and easily overlooked – part of dealing with triple-negative breast cancer. So four women with this disorder practice self-care. They can also give you some ideas for coping.