Triple Negative Breast Cancer

What is triple negative breast cancer?

All breast cancers start the same way—as the cells in your breast grow and divide naturally, something goes wrong. Your cells make a bad copy of your DNA that causes new cells to grow out of control into tumors.

However, not all breast cancers are exactly the same. They start in different types of cells. Some breast cancers use hormones like estrogen or progesterone to grow faster. Others have a HER2 gene that makes them more aggressive.

When breast cancer doesn't have a HER2 gene and doesn't use hormones to grow, it is called triple negative breast cancer. These cancers can be harder to treat because they don't respond to targeted therapies.

However, that doesn't mean that triple negative breast cancers can't be treated and put into remission. As cancer research leads to more advanced treatments, women with all types of breast cancer are seeing better results from cancer treatment.

Symptoms of triple negative breast cancer

Triple negative breast cancers have similar symptoms to other breast cancers. You may notice changes in your breast, such as:

  • A lump
  • Redness, warmth or scaliness in the skin of your breast
  • Discharge from your nipple
  • Nipple that looks dented
  • Part of your breast tissue feels thicker

Though younger women and black women are more likely to have triple-negative breast cancer, all women should talk to their doctor about any changes in their breasts.


If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will perform tests to figure out exactly what type of breast cancer you have. Knowing the type of breast cancer helps you get the best treatment for your specific condition. In general, you will undergo three types of treatment for triple-negative breast cancer: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Surgery is often the first step in treating cancer for many patients. Women with triple negative breast cancers typically have their whole breast removed (mastectomy). In some cases, women may have chemotherapy before surgery to shrink cancer tumors so your doctors only have to remove part of the breast (lumpectomy).

You may also get chemotherapy, starting a few weeks after surgery to ensure all cancer cells are eliminated. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells anywhere in the body and is effective for treating triple negative breast cancer.

Sometimes you may also need radiation therapy, which uses high-powered X-rays beams or particles to destroy any cancer cells left in or around your breast after surgery. Women who have a lumpectomy will need radiation therapy following surgery. Sometimes women who get a mastectomy also need radiation treatments, especially if cancer has spread into lymph nodes.

At Main Line Health, we create personalized treatment plans for each patient with breast cancer, taking into account the type and stage of breast cancer as well as your overall health and lifestyle.

Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

Many breast cancer patients receive radiation therapy, a type of cancer treatment that uses high-energy particles and beams to destroy cancer cells. You may have radiation therapy in conjunction with other treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy. At Main Line Health, our expert radiation oncologists use the latest technology to give you powerful, precise treatment while sparing healthy tissue.

Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast cancer is often treated with surgery, either alone or in combination with other treatment. Our goal for surgery is to remove all cancerous cells while leaving as much breast tissue and skin as possible. Our experienced breast cancer surgeons are skilled in the latest minimally invasive techniques, including sentinel node biopsies and skin- and nipple-sparing mastectomies.

Breast Cancer Therapies

Depending on the extent and nature your cancer diagnosis, medical treatments may be recommended by themselves or in conjunction with surgery or radiation therapy. Various forms of treatment medications may be used in combination or in sequence, to target and eradicate the different types of cancer cells while sparing normal tissue.

Targeted Therapy for HER2

People who have overly “expressed” levels of HER2 may be candidates for targeted therapy, meaning pharmaceutical therapy that specifically targets the HER2 protein.

Breast Reconstruction

Breast cancer reconstruction or breast reconstruction surgery is often done in conjunction with a mastectomy or lumpectomy so that you have only one surgery and recovery vs. multiple surgeries.


Chemotherapy is used to fight almost every type of cancer and is part of the comprehensive treatment plan created by our oncologists.


Cancer Care

From diagnosis and throughout treatment, Main Line Health cancer specialists (oncologists) provide compassionate care for you and your loved ones through all stages of cancer treatment.

Hematology and Blood Disorders

Whether you are fighting cancer or managing a blood disorder, the hematologists and oncologists at Main Line Health offer the comprehensive care you need.