Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) describes any type of breast cancer that lacks three types of receptors that are often used for targeted treatments. These three types of receptors are estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2/neu). These receptors are involved in cell signaling and are found on affected cells in breast cancer that is not TNBC. There are different forms of TNBC, and about 10-20 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a TNBC form.
Women who are younger in age, African American or Hispanic, and/or have mutations in the BRCA1 gene are more likely to have TNBC. TNBC often spreads more quickly than other types of breast cancer and presents a higher risk of coming back or recurring, especially in the first few years after treatment. After the first 3-5 years following treatment, the risk of recurrence of TNBC matches that of non-TNBC.
TNBC is diagnosed by taking a biopsy, or tissue sample, of the cancer. TNBC is less likely to respond to hormonal treatments but often does respond well to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. If you have been diagnosed with TNBC, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. In addition, a genetic counselor can help discuss inheritance and risks to other family members. Support groups are a good source of information and can connect you with others who have been affected by breast cancer.