Triple-Negative Breast Cancer is a unique kind of cancer common in younger women below 40 years of age. TNBC differs from other types of invasive breast cancer, as they grow & spread faster and have very limited treatment options.
TNBC can have the same signs & symptoms as other common types of breast cancer. Triple-negative breast cancer is a kind of breast cancer that does not have any receptors like any other breast cancer.
As an example, take the cancer cells as a house. And the front door may have 3 kinds of locks, called receptors :
- One may be female hormone – Estrogen
- Second maybe female hormone – Progesterone
- The third is a protein called – The human epidermal growth factor (HER2).
In case your cancer cells have any of these 3 locks, doctors have a few keys in form of hormone therapy and other drugs to destroy these cancer cells. But if you have TNBC then the doctors have fewer treatment options. Though Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy & Surgery are the most effective of all.
Symptoms of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer :
Symptoms of TNBC is as same as other breast cancers like :
- Lump & mass in the breast
- Breast pain or redness
- A nipple that turns inward or has a discharge
Treatment of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer:
If cancer has not spread to distant sites, surgery is an option. Chemotherapy might be given first to shrink a large tumor followed by surgery. It might also be given after surgery to reduce the chances of cancer coming back. Radiation might also be an option depending on certain features of the tumor.
Because hormone therapy and HER2 drugs are not choices for women with triple-negative breast cancer, chemotherapy is often used. In cases where cancer has spread to other parts of the body (stage IV) chemotherapy and other treatments that can be considered include PARP inhibitors, platinum chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.
Commonly TNBC is treated by removal of the lump and nearby lymph nodes through – Lumpectomy, or removal of the breast and nearby lymph nodes through – Mastectomy. Then Chemotherapy targets any cancer cell not easily seen. Radiation therapy is usually given post lumpectomies, to kill any missed cancer cells.
Out of these Chemotherapy ensures to kill the cancer cells wherever they maybe, also lowers the chances of growing of cancer cells or coming back.
Common side effects of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer :
- Hair Loss- Generally a hair loss is seen from two-four weeks of starting Chemotherapy and grows back after the chemotherapy stops.
- Nausea- Most of the women feel sick & queasy for a day or two after each chemotherapy.
- Tiredness- You may feel tired and find yourself struggling to remember things, but things get back to normal after the radiation therapy or chemotherapy ends.
- Lymphedema- If you have lymph nodes removed during surgery, or if you receive radiation treatment to your lymph nodes, the lymph fluid may not be able to drain properly. This may cause the fluid to build up under your skin and cause part of your body to swell. This condition is called lymphedema.
- Change in Skin- Your skin might have a peel-off effect like after sunburn on the area’s chemotherapy/radiation therapy has been given.
Written by Ananya Bhattacharya, ENHAPP Wellness Coach & Nutritionist