Breast Cancer, Triple Negative
Breast Cancer, Triple Negative Definition
Breast cancer is formed when cells within the breast grow out of control, eventually forming a tumor. However, breast cancer is not one type of cancer. It is actually many different sub-types of cancer, each with its own unique properties.
Triple negative breast cancer is a form of the disease where three “receptors” that typically fuel breast cancer are absent. These are estrogen receptors, human epidural growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), and progesterone receptors. Because of this, growth of the cancer is not facilitated by the hormones estrogen or progesterone, nor by HER2 receptors.
This is important because the most effective breast cancer treatments target these receptors. Being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer means that the tumor is estrogen receptor negative, HER2 negative, and progesterone receptor negative. This means that treatments focusing on these receptors will not be effective.
Triple negative breast cancer is also very aggressive, and more likely to reoccur than other forms of breast cancer. It is estimated that between 10% to 20% of breast cancers are triple negative.
Breast Cancer, Triple Negative Stages
Staging is a process where a series of tests and physical exams are used to better understand the size and scope of cancer, and ascertain whether it has spread to other parts of the body or lymph nodes. Doctors use staging to determine various methods of treatment based on historical data, and use the information to offer the patient a prognosis.
Understanding the causes of triple negative breast cancer will make it easier to understand the various stages and how that information relates to treatment and prognosis. Triple negative breast cancer stages are broken down into five categories, Stage 0 to Stage IV.
Just like other forms of cancer, no two triple negative breast cancers are exactly the same. Your doctor will prescribe a series of tests on tissues and the cancer itself to develop a profile of your specific cancer. Some tests are done after your biopsy, and others will take place after your lumpectomy or mastectomy. The cumulative results of these tests become known as your “pathology report.” This information is also used to determine triple negative breast cancer stages.
There are four characteristics that also help determine each of the triple negative breast cancer stages. These include:
• The cancer’s size
• Whether it’s non-invasive or invasive
• Whether it’s spread to the lymph nodes
• Whether it’s spread to other areas in your body other than the breast
A grading system called the TNM staging system is often used to ascertain these values. T denotes the tumor’s size and whether it’s grown into nearby tissue. N denotes whether the cancer has spread into any nearby lymph nodes. M denotes whether the cancer has metastasized (spread) into distant areas of the body.
If your triple negative breast cancer is confined to the breast, it may be referred to as “local.” If it’s spread to nearby lymph nodes, like those in your armpit, the cancer may be referred to as “regional.” If cancer is found in other parts of your body, your doctor may refer to it as “distant.”
Understanding which stage your cancer is in will help you and your doctor determine possible treatment options and your overall prognosis. How triple negative breast cancer stages are defined offer a common framework that makes it easier to understand how your cancer compares to that of other patients. Still, your cancer is unique, so it’s important to weigh treatment decisions carefully.
Breast Cancer, Triple Negative Symptoms (signs of Breast Cancer, Triple Negative)
Many people believe that triple negative breast cancers always begin with a noticeable lump, but while this is sometimes a symptom of the disease, sometimes other symptoms develop first. Sometimes there are no symptoms of breast cancer at all, which underscores the importance of routine screening mammograms. Mammograms are capable of detecting triple negative breast cancers at their earliest stages, often before symptoms develop, and even before they can be felt.
It’s important to know how your breasts normally look and feel, so that you can identify possible symptoms if they appear. The most common triple negative breast cancer symptoms is a new mass or lump on the breast. If this mass is hard, has irregular edges, and doesn’t cause any noticeable pain, it is more likely cancerous. However, these masses may also cause pain. Sometimes that pain is significant.
There are other possible triple negative breast cancer symptoms to be aware of. These include:
• Swelling in all, or part, of the breast
• Dimpling or irritation in the skin (this may have an “orange peel” wrinkling)
• Pain or redness in the breast or nipple
• Turning inward of the nipple (also called nipple retraction)
• Thickening or scaling in the breast’s skin or nipple
• Nipple discharge of anything other than breast milk
It’s also possible to notice lumps or swelling in the lymph nodes under the arm, or around the collarbone area. This may be a sign of breast cancer that has spread into a lymph node. It could also be unrelated to breast cancer, yet still potentially cancerous. If you notice any swelling in your lymph nodes, you should have them checked by your healthcare provider without delay, because it is a warning sign of cancer.
Even mammograms are incapable of detecting every case of triple negative breast cancer, so it’s important to recognize any changes in your breasts. You should also familiarize yourself with the aforementioned signs of triple negative breast cancer, so you can do everything you can to detect a tumor as early as possible.
Breast Cancer, Triple Negative Statistics
Triple negative breast cancer represents about 10% to 20% of all breast cancer cases. The five year survival rate is a way of statistically defining how many patients live at least 5 years after their initial diagnosis. The 5 year survival rate for triple negative breast cancer is lower than that of other breast cancer, at appropriately 75%. However, some studies say that the 5 year survival rate of all breast cancers is about the same.
It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point in their life, and that in 2018 there will be about 63,000 cases of non-invasive breast cancer and 266,000 cases of invasive breast diagnosed in America. Incidence and mortality rates associated with the disease have been dropping over the last few decades, probably because of more accurate screenings.
Causes of Breast Cancer, Triple Negative
Doctors are unsure why certain women develop triple negative breast cancer, or why some women are more likely to develop this type of the disease. Certain groups of women are more likely to develop triple negative breast cancer, including younger women, African American women, Latina women, and women who have an abnormal change in the BRC1 gene.
Breast Cancer, Triple Negative Screening and Prevention
The best way to prevent suffering the devastating effects of breast cancer is to find it in its earliest stages, when possible. Screening for breast cancer can be done using any method where a woman’s breasts are checked for cancer. The goal is to find the cancer when it’s easiest to treat.
Doctors agree that the best way to screen for breast cancer is with a mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breasts that can locate breast cancer before it’s large enough to cause any symptoms. It is proven that regular mammograms reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer.
Women at average risk of developing breast cancer between the ages of 50 to 74 should receive a mammogram once every two years. Woman between 40 and 49 should speak to their doctor about when to start receiving mammograms and how often to get them.
Women at high-risk for developing breast cancer may also want to seek screening in the form of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). MRIs use radio waves and magnets to take detailed pictures of the breast. The goal is to find triple negative breast cancer in its earliest stages. MRIs are routinely used with mammograms to screen woman with high risk of developing breast cancer..
Breast Cancer, Triple Negative
Breast exams are another form of screening, and can either be self-administered or administered by a companion or healthcare professional. Clinical and personal breast exams seek to find areas on the breast that have lumps, are painful, or have changed in size. If you notice any of these symptoms when performing a self-screening breast exam, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
While there is no way to change genetic risk factors for breast cancer, there are lifestyle choices that help prevent developing the disease. Avoiding these risk factors is a good idea, but woman at high risk for breast cancer should be especially cognizant of their lifestyle choices.
• Drinking Alcohol – The more alcohol you drink, the greater your chances of developing breast cancer. Research indicates that high risk patients should drink no more than one drink per day.
• Smoking Tobacco – Studies indicate that smoking increases the risk of developing breast cancer. There are many other benefits to quitting smoking, many of which are health related.
• Weight – There is a proven link between obesity and breast cancer risk.
• Activity Level – Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight. It also can help prevent the onset of cancer.
• Breastfeeding – There is clinical evidence that suggests breastfeeding plays a fundamental role in breast cancer prevention. Breast feeding a baby for a longer period of time increases this overall effect.
• Hormone Therapy – Studies show that taking hormone therapy for just three years can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
• Exposure to Radiation and Pollution – You should only have tests that use radiation when absolutely necessary. The same is true of environmental pollution, some of which can have a cumulative effect on your body, eventually causing cancer.
• Diet – Some foods may decrease cancer risks, and some oil-rich and plant-based diets have also been associated with breast cancer risk mitigation. Some alternative breast cancer treatments are based around a particular diet.
Breast Cancer, Triple Negative Treatments
Treatments for triple negative breast cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. However, there is some evidence indicating that chemotherapy is more effective at treating triple negative breast cancer than other forms of the disease.
There are also some new treatments being studies that hold a lot of promise for those suffering from this disease. It’s important to remember that every treatment for breast cancer poses inherent risks and the likelihood of debilitating side effects. Before deciding on any treatment for breast cancer, make sure you understand these risks.
Alternative Treatments Used for Breast Cancer, Triple Negative
Mainstream triple negative breast cancer treatments focus on the disease, not the patient. Some doctors argue that this is problematic, because every patient’s breast cancer is unique to them and should be treated as such. While drug therapy, or radiation therapy or chemotherapy may work for one patient, it may totally fail in another patient. For this reason, many patients don’t actually die because of the cancer itself, but because of the side effects resulting from the prescribed treatment.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the recurrence rate of triple negative breast cancer is quite high. Alternative triple negative breast cancer treatments seek non-traditional means to fight the specific cancer in each individual patient’s body. Sometimes alternative treatments use a combination of traditional and non-traditional treatments, depending on the stage and severity of the cancer.
Some alternative triple negative breast cancer treatments focus on the body’s natural ability to heal itself. The goal is the boost the patient’s immune system so that it naturally fights and kills the triple negative breast cancer cells.
Alternative breast cancer treatment may also be “complementary,” which means it’s used to relive symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life as treatment progresses. The reason they are called “alternative” is because they fall outside of what is considered “mainstream medicine.”
Some forms of alternative breast cancer treatments include:
• Traditional medicine
• Special diets
• Chiropractic medicine
The choice to pursue alternative triple negative breast cancer treatment is ultimately up to each patient. Before entering into any triple negative breast cancer treatment protocol, be sure to explore every option and seek medical advice from a health professional that you implicitly trust.
Vitamins and Supplements Used in the Treatment of Breast Cancer, Triple Negative
Vitamins and supplements are used by some patients to treat breast cancer, or reduce the symptoms associated with the disease and its treatment. There is a long list of vitamins and supplements used for these purposes, with varying degrees of evidence that support their effectiveness.
Some of the vitamins and supplements used to treat breast cancer include beta-carotene, olive, soy, and Vitamin A, among others. There are many others that may help depending on the nature of the patient’s cancer, and these include black cohosh, Brussels sprouts, collards, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K, among others.
One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the vitamins you need to fight cancer is by maintaining a healthy diet full of fresh vegetables. It’s also important to talk to your doctor before considering any supplement or vitamin treatment to ensure it won’t conflict with other treatments.
Natural Remedies that May Help Breast Cancer, Triple Negative
Sometimes patients seek ways to counter the adverse side effects of traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Even if treatments are successful, breast cancer patients may be left with a number of side effects that can be quite debilitating.
Common side effects associated with many mainstream breast cancer treatments include:
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Breast pain
Diet and exercise play a considerable role in a patient’s overall health when dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment. A healthy diet should be divided between proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, which are called “macros.” Your doctor can help you better understand how essential foods ensure you get the right vitamins in their proper doses.
Other natural remedies used to treat triple negative breast cancer include anything that helps mitigate pain, which may include ice packs, warm compresses, or even an Epsom salt bath. Increasing a patient’s overall comfort level helps them deal with the nasty side effects associated with treatment, which in turn may help them heal faster.
For more information about triple negative breast cancer, contact a member of the Causenta team.
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