What You Need to Know About Triple Negative Breast Cancer

November 12, 2012

What You Need to Know About Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Triple negative breast cancer is a potentially lethal form of breast cancer. The triple negative part of the name takes a while to explain. Cells communicate by means of having receptors for specific bodily chemicals. Each receptor is like a lock that only a specific chemical can open. Cancer cells also contain receptors. But patients with triple negative breast cancer have cancer cells that lack receptor for the hormones estrogen, progesterone or human epidural growth factor receptor 2 (HER2.) So what does this matter to a woman who has just been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer? It means that any medication with hormones in it – and many breast cancer drugs contain estrogen, progesterone of HER2 – will not work for her, because her cancer cells lack the locks for medication¬ís “keys.” There are some drugs available for her, as well as surgery and chemotherapy. Risk Factors For an unknown reason, women with African or Hispanic heritage are most prone to developing triple negative breast cancer than for any other ethnic group. For another unknown reason, women who take oral contraceptive pills are also at risk for developing this aggressive but rare form of breast cancer. A majority of women with this type of breast cancer contain a gene mutation called BRCA1 gene fault. This passes down the female line of a family. Genetic testing is available to see if you carry this gene. The gene does not mean you will inevitably get triple negative breast cancer but it does raise your chances.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms for this breast cancer are similar to skin infections and other ailments. The symptoms need to be checked by a doctor at once, just to be on the safe side. The sooner a woman can get treatment, the better her chances for surviving the cancer.

Symptoms include breast lumps, a change in breast texture or color; sudden appearance of dimples on the breast; development of red, scaly or itchy patches; pain and the nipples suddenly pointing inwards instead of outwards. The nipples may ooze a discharge that is not milk. Women should get an annual mammogram to check for strange masses in the breast which may indicate cancer, especially if they have the BRCA1 gene fault.


Unfortunately, triple negative breast cancer is one of the worst forms of breast cancer a human being can have. It’s extremely aggressive and, in the first three years of diagnosis, spreads to other parts of the body. Women with triple negative breast cancer have a 16% chance of dying in five years than do women with any other form of breast cancer.

Clinical trials for new medications are available in many parts of the Western world. Doctors or oncologists may advise you to participate in one of these clinical trials if you happen to be diagnosed with this cancer. Women in clinical trials can be pulled out of the trial at any time if their doctors think they are at risk or are getting worse.


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