Triple negative breast cancer can have a positive outlook
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.
Know the signs 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.
Triple negative breast cancer responds to triple-threat treatment
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.