Breast cancer can affect 1 out of 8 women in the US. Out of all of the breast cancers, triple-negative breast cancer accounts for around 10-15% of them. Triple-negative breast cancers don’t have any of the receptors that commonly show up in breast cancer. What that means is that the cells test negative on all three tests for estrogen, progesterone, and human epidermal growth factor (HER2).
Due to its nature, triple-negative breast cancer is considered an aggressive cancer. Not only does it grow more quickly, it is also more likely to come back after treatment. Since it’s much harder to diagnose it, it is also more likely to have spread by the time it is discovered.
How to Diagnose Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Similar to other cancers, a diagnosis can only happen after a biopsy. The most common reason for delayed diagnoses for triple-negative breast cancers are lack of awareness. Many people who don’t do self-checks can miss any changes to their breasts, which can lead to a delayed diagnosis. If you discover a lump, your healthcare provider will run some imaging tests to determine if the lump is a concern before ordering a biopsy.
Common Risk Factors
There are some common factors for those who are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. People who are overweight or obese have a higher chance of getting it, and African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to develop it than Caucasians or Asians. Additionally, a family history of cancer and the BRCA1 gene increases the risk for triple-negative breast cancer.
How to Treat It
Since triple-negative breast cancer doesn’t have the estrogen or progesterone receptors or the HER2 protein, any treatment or therapy that targets those will not be effective, leaving chemotherapy and surgery as the main treatment options.
However, with advances in science and additional research, more treatments will soon become available. For instance, researchers from the University of Arizona have developed a new drug that can potentially treat triple-negative breast cancer with little to no toxic side effects. Another study discovered that Ampligen could be a major component in treating early-stage triple-negative breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancers affect around 13 in 100,000 women, but it is one of the most difficult breast cancers to treat due to lack of receptors. While only 77% of women diagnosed with it survive after 5 years, science and new research are constantly discovering new ways of treating it.
Want to learn more about triple-negative breast cancers? Join us for our annual Mammography and Mistletoe Mini Conference on December 3rd. Dr. Tanya Moseley, Michelle Keck, BSRS, RT(R)(M)(BS), BHCN, and Peggy Hoosier, M.Ed., (R)(M), will be going over various topics such as triple-negative breast cancer, tomosynthesis, and breast imaging liability.