To understand triple-negative breast cancer, a person needs to know more about the three major types of breast cancer. These are:
Progesterone receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-positive are the most common types of breast cancers.
For people who develop one of these types of cancers, there are hormonal therapy options that can help attack the cancer cells. If one therapy does not work, often another therapy may.
Another common breast cancer type is HER2 receptor-positive. In cases of HER2, the cancer cells have an abundance of HER2 receptors on their surfaces. Similar to the breast cancers caused by hormone receptors, HER2 breast cancer can be treated with different therapies that target the HER2 receptor.
Triple-negative breast cancer refers to cancer that has not tested positive for any of the three other types. It is also the least common form of breast cancer and the hardest to treat.
Unlike the three main types, triple-negative breast cancer has no targeted therapies available, currently. It is also more likely than the other types of breast cancer to spread and recur.
Currently, researchers are interested in finding out more about some of the risk factors for developing triple-negative breast cancer. Those that researchers have identified so far include:
Obesity and inactivity
Individuals with mutated genes are at higher risk for triple-negative breast cancer, as well as other common cancers.
A family history of breast cancer can help determine if someone is at a higher risk of developing breast cancer in the future.
Some research suggests that age may play a role in an increased risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer.
Premenopausal women have been found to develop triple-negative breast cancer more often than postmenopausal women.
Race or ethnicity
Some studies suggest that certain backgrounds may make people more susceptible to triple-negative breast cancer. Disproportionate numbers of cases of triple-negative breast cancer affect African-American women.
Some studies suggest that whether a woman has ever been pregnant plays a role in increasing or decreasing her risk of triple-negative breast cancer.
Women who have had children tend to be more at risk than those who have not. Similarly, women who only have one child are less likely to develop triple-negative breast cancer than women with multiple children.
The majority of women with breast cancer do not have any signs or symptoms when diagnosed. However, it is possible for women with the disease to experience breast changes or symptoms. Many times, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not cancer.
The signs and symptoms that should be discussed with a doctor include: