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Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Understanding This Rare Type of Cancer

April 18, 2023
Older woman smiling while wearing pink breast cancer ribbon

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 264,000 women and 2,400 men in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. There are many types of breast cancer, and these are determined by the specific cells in the breast affected by cancer. Some breast cancers have special features or develop in unique ways, making them less common and, at times, more serious.

One of these types of breast cancer is triple-negative breast cancer. While the type of breast cancer only accounts for about 10-15% of all breast cancers, patients should still be aware of its characteristics and how it develops in the body. Here, Richmond University Medical Center, an award-winning, nationally accredited, full service hospital on Staten Island, New York, provides an overview of triple-negative breast cancer and discusses treatment options.

What Makes Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Different?

Triple-negative breast cancer is different from other forms of the disease because the cancerous cells do not have estrogen or progesterone, nor do they make much of the protein HER2. As a result, they return negative results on three common tests used to diagnose breast cancer.

The reason this type of breast cancer is so serious is that it tends to grow and spread much faster than other forms of breast cancer. Additionally, triple-negative breast cancer has limited treatment options and generally has a worse prognosis.

While any patient can develop triple-negative breast cancer, it is more common in women under the age of 40, as well as women who have a BRCA1 mutation and African-American women.

Signs and Symptoms of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Although triple-negative breast cancer is much less common, it has the same signs and symptoms as other forms of breast cancer. Signs of the disease include:

  • Pain in any area of the breast
  • A lump in the breast or underarm
  • Irritated breast skin
  • Discharge from the nipple other than breast milk
  • Swollen breast
  • Redness or flaky nipple skin
  • Any change in the shape or size of the breast
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area

Treatment Options for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

The best method for treating triple-negative breast cancer often depends on the patient and their condition. In most cases, if the cancer has not spread, surgery is an option. To help reduce the size of the tumor, chemotherapy is often recommended before surgery and again after to reduce the risk of cancer returning. Radiation is also an option for patients depending on the characteristics of the tumor.

In scenarios where cancer has spread to other areas of the body, platinum chemotherapy, immunotherapy with chemotherapy, or targeted drugs like a PARP inhibitor or antibody-drug conjugate, may be considered.

Get Comprehensive Care at Richmond University Medical Center

Patients who have concerns about their breast health should turn to the oncology team at Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island, New York. Our board-certified medical team possesses the required knowledge to diagnose and treat various forms of breast cancer, including triple-negative breast cancer. Our comprehensive services include cancer screenings and breast cancer treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to learn more about screenings and treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer and other forms of the disease.