Triple-negative breast cancer is characterized by the absence of any receptors generally found in breast cancer cells. The three receptors not present in triple-negative breast cancer are progesterone receptors, estrogen receptors, and human epidermal growth factor (HER2). This cancer subtype is more aggressive compared to other breast cancer subtypes. In many cases, cancer spreads to tissues beyond the breast before it is diagnosed.
Symptoms of triple-negative breast cancer
The symptoms of triple-negative breast cancer are similar to breast cancer. It includes:
- A lump or mass in the breast may indicate cancer. However, most breast lumps are not cancerous. In most cases, a painless lump with irregular edges indicates breast cancer.
- Nipple or breast pain
- Discharge from the nipple (except breast milk)
- Red, flaking, dry, or thickened skin of the breasts or nipples
- Lymph node swelling near collar bone or under the arm
If the patients experience any of the above symptoms, they should book an appointment at the breast cancer hospital in Nashik.
Risk factors for triple-negative breast cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer may occur in any woman. However, some women are at an increased risk of cancer than others. The risk factors for triple-negative breast cancer include:
- Under 50 years of age (most of the receptor-positive breast cancer occurs in women above 60 years)
- Women of Latina or African-American origin
- Have BRCA gene mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer and other types of cancer
Treatment for triple-negative breast cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer does not have estrogen and progesterone receptors. Thus, triple-negative breast cancer may not respond to hormonal therapy. It is, thus, important to receive the best breast cancer treatment in Nashik. However, certain other treatment options treat or delay the progression of this cancer. The oncologists generally develop combinatorial treatment strategies for treating triple-negative breast cancer. Some of the treatment options are:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy treatment in triple-negative breast cancer involves administering drugs that kill or delay the growth of cancerous cells. Patients diagnosed with cancer in the early stage may relatively respond well to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is used before the surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) to shrink the cancer cells. It may also be used after the surgery (adjuvant therapy) that kills the cancerous cells left after the surgery.
- Surgery: The oncology surgeon performs different surgeries to treat triple-negative breast cancer. The surgeon will only remove the lump if the lump is restricted to a particular breast area. This surgery is known as lumpectomy. However, in some cases, the size and number of lumps are large, and there is also an involvement of the nearby lymph nodes. In such cases, lumpectomy is not a feasible option. The surgeon removes the complete breasts along with the affected lymph nodes. This procedure is known as mastectomy.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy involves using high-energy radiation to destroy cancerous cells. It is generally administered in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy also prevents the recurrence of cancer. It is usually done after a lumpectomy.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy functions in two different but connected ways. It boosts the immune system and improves its performance in fighting against cancer cells. In addition, it makes the cancerous cells more vulnerable to immune cells by preventing the synthesis of protein hiding the cancer cells from the immune system.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy drugs interfere with the cellular processes vital for growth, especially in cancer cells. PARP inhibitors target an enzyme in the cancer cells that assists DNA repair.
Common side effects of triple-negative breast cancer treatment
Like the treatment for other cancers, the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer has several side effects. Some of them are:
- Chemotherapy may result in hair loss within two to four weeks of initiation.
- Women experience fatigue, sickness, and nausea for one to two days after every chemotherapy cycle. The doctor may prescribe anti-emetic drugs.
- Some women may also experience confusion, memory, and concentration after chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, it may go away within a few weeks after therapy completion.
- Patients may also have fluid accumulation in the lymph nodes after surgery or radiation therapy.
- Radiation therapy may alter the skin characteristics, such as redness and peeling of the skin.
Triple-negative breast cancer metastasis
Cancer metastasis is a step in the progression of cancer when the cancer cells leave the organ of origin and spread to one or more nearby or distant organs. Metastatic triple-negative breast cancer is difficult to treat and has a relatively reduced survival rate. The most common organs for metastatic triple-negative breast cancer are the liver, brain, bone, and lungs.
Prognosis of triple-negative breast cancer
The prognosis of triple-negative breast cancer depends upon several factors. These factors include the stage of cancer diagnosis, age of the patients, response to treatment, and overall health of the patient. The 5-year survival rate for localized triple-negative breast cancer is 91%, for regional triple-negative breast cancer is 65%, and 12% for distant cancer. The overall 5-year survival rate for triple-negative breast cancer is 77%.