Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Triple Negative breast cancer (TNBC) is less common than other types of breast cancer, but it’s a serious and challenging type to treat.

TNBC develops when breast cells grow and divide without control or order. This can lead to a lump or mass in the breast and spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, lungs or brain. Triple negative breast cancer cells don’t have receptors that fuel the growth and spread of most breast cancers, which are called hormone or HER2 positive. They also don’t have a protein that helps the cell to respond to hormonal signals, called ER.

About 15% of all breast cancers are triple negative, but it’s more common in women younger than 50. It also occurs more often in black women.

Researchers aren’t sure what causes triple negative breast cancer. They do know that it’s more likely to happen in people who have certain gene mutations, including BRCA1.

Doctors diagnose Triple Negative breast cancer with imaging tests and a biopsy, which involves taking tissue or fluid from the suspected area of the tumor. A medical pathologist then examines the cells under a microscope to determine if you have triple-negative breast cancer.

Your doctor will ask you about your family history of breast cancer and other health problems. Your age, ethnicity and whether you have a BRCA gene mutation are also factors.

Triple negative breast cancer is different than other breast cancers, because it doesn’t have receptors that respond to the hormones estrogen and progesterone or a protein that signals breast cells to grow and divide. The lack of these receptors means that triple-negative breast cancer can’t be treated with hormone therapies or drugs that block HER2.

Instead, doctors use other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. They might also recommend surgery, such as a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

The goal of treatment is to kill cancer cells while preserving healthy tissues. Your treatment plan will depend on the stage and grade of your triple-negative breast cancer, as well as how much the cancer has spread.

TNBC can be more difficult to treat than other types of breast cancer, but recent advances in treating triple-negative breast cancer have made it a more viable treatment option for many patients. These include new drugs that can stop cancer cells from growing and spreading, and combination therapy that uses chemotherapy and immunotherapy to shrink tumors before surgery.

Side effects of these treatments might include fatigue, nausea and hair loss. Your healthcare team will explain the side effects of your treatment and how to manage them.

We have one of the country’s largest clinical programs for triple-negative breast cancer. This includes research on new treatments and combinations of treatments, including clinical trials that are not available anywhere else.

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