What Is Triple-Negative Breast Cancer?

A triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis means that the three receptors that fuel breast cancer growth are not present in the tumor. These include the HER2, estrogen, and progesterone hormones. When a patient has triple-negative, their breast cancer cells have tested negative for these proteins.

Therefore, triple-negative breast cancer will not respond to any hormone therapy drugs or medicines that target the HER2 protein receptors. But other medications can treat the disease successfully.

Cell receptors are unique proteins found within or outside cells. They receive messages from the bloodstream and transmit them to the cells. Receptors found in healthy breast cells receive signals from progesterone and estrogen. The hormones attach to receptors to give instructions that help cells to grow and function well.

About 20% of all breast cancers are triple-negative. Researchers are working to find new medications for these types of breast cancers. More studies are underway to determine whether certain medications can disrupt the processes that cause the growth of triple-negative breast cancer.

Here are three common characteristics of triple-negative breast cancer;

  • Triple-negative breast cancer is very aggressive and has a poor prognosis compared to other breast cancer types. Studies confirm that triple-negative breast cancer is likely to spread beyond the breast and will likely recur after treatment.
  • It is of high grade than other breast cancers. High-grade triple-negative breast cancer cells do not resemble healthy breast cells in both appearance and growth patterns.
  • The cells resemble basal cells lining the breast ducts. The basal-like cancers are high grade and quite aggressive, just like the triple-negative breast cancers. However, not all the triple-negative breast cancers are basal-like, but basal-like breast cancers are often triple-negative.

Triple-negative breast cancers are common in people younger than 50. It is likely to be diagnosed in Hispanic and African American women. Those with inherited BRCA1 mutations are the most diagnosed with the disease.

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