Triple negative metastatic breast cancer refers to two things: a particular type of breast cancer, and how far that breast cancer has advanced. To help you understand the term, Breast Reconstruction Associates needs to break it down and look at each portion by itself.
Triple negative breast cancer
Breast cancer may be discussed as a single disease, but it’s actually more of a loose collection of similar ailments. In so-called triple negative breast cancer, the cancer is at least partially of a type lacking hormone receptors or HER2/neu receptors. In other words, it’s negative for oestrogen receptors, negative for progesterone receptors, and negative for HER2/neu receptors. Between 14 and 20% of breast cancers test triple negative.
This is important because of the role these receptors play in treatment. The targeted treatments used for other breast cancers won’t work on a triple negative breast cancer, leaving only standard treatments such as surgery, chemo, and radiation. This means that triple negative breast cancers are regarded as a more aggressive breast cancer, with a worse prognosis. Even more treatable forms of triple negative breast cancer are more likely to impact quality of life, due to the issues inherent to general cancer treatments.
The ‘metastatic’ part of the term is used for all cancers, and refers to a cancer which has spread – metastasized – to other parts of the body. This is the same condition frequently referred to as Stage IV cancer or advanced cancer. A metastatic breast cancer is no longer limited to the tissues and nearby lymph nodes of the breasts. This makes treatment more difficult and greatly worsens prognosis; even aggressive approaches such as mastectomy won’t work under such situations. In the US and other countries with high levels of breast cancer awareness, metastasis is more commonly first discovered after completed treatments for early stage breast cancer, than as an initial condition.
Recurrence is relatively fast and common with triple negative breast cancers and frequently involves metastasis to the brain or lungs. This speedy recurrence makes the five-year milestone of particular importance for survivors of triple negative breast cancers, as the rate of recurrence sharply drops after that point. Those who have delayed other procedures, such as breast reconstruction, can safely commit with the help of Breast Reconstruction Associates at the five-year mark.