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What Is Triple-Negative Breast Cancer?

BREAST CANCER IS NOT A single disease, but a variety of subtypes that have different features, prognoses and treatments. Based on an analysis of the characteristics of the tumor, breast cancer can be classified into several molecular subtypes. This is important information for your doctor to collect at the time of diagnosis, as it will guide treatment decisions and next steps in your care. More precise diagnoses can lead to better treatment options for patients.

"At the time of diagnosis, we take a piece of tissue and stain it [to look] for three markers in the tissue," says Dr. Daniel Stover, a breast medical oncologist, translational scientist and member of the Translational Therapeutics Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. This test happens immediately after a breast biopsy removes some tissue from the tumor or lump that is suspected to be cancerous. The pathologist is looking for higher than normal numbers of estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and HER2/neu proteins. All of these proteins are normal parts of breast cells, but in cancerous cells, they may be overexpressed, meaning that the cell makes too many of them. This overexpression can fuel the growth of the cancer.

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