African-American Women May be at Higher Risk for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
More than 230,000 American are likely to face a diagnosis of breast cancer in the coming year. Thanks to early screening and a diversity of treatment options, many of those women will find their prognosis rather positive. Some, however, will learn their cancer is more aggressive and may pose a greater risk. Triple-negative breast cancer is one of the tumor types that may present with a poorer prognosis at diagnosis. This form of breast cancer, researchers are finding, may be of special concern to women of African-American descent.
Researchers have been engaged in a study that includes women from the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. Over the 10-year period the study has been active, researchers have discovered an overall uptick in the number of new breast cancer cases among this population. Most concerning was the discovery of a possible higher risk for triple-negative breast tumors.
Triple-negative breast cancer involves tumors that have tested negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and HER2. When all three factors are negative in testing, the tumor is deemed triple-negative. This is a concern because it means cancer growth is not promoted by hormones. Inasmuch, hormonal therapy and drugs meant to target HER2 receptors, will not provide the desired response in these tumors. About 10 to 20 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed are discovered to be triple-negative.
While researchers say triple-negative breast cancer is a potential threat to all women, the incident rates may signal a more tangible biological risk for women of African-American descent. The potential for higher risk may mean women of African-American descent and their healthcare providers need to be more vigilant about early detection and routine screening protocols. Although triple-negative tumors are deemed more aggressive and harder to treat, women need to be aware they can be successfully treated. This is especially so when tumors are detected and treated as early as possible.
Overall, women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer will find their prognosis is poorer than others in the first five years. After the five-year mark, the disparity decreases and eventually goes away. Viable treatments for this type of breast cancer include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Women who are concerned about breast cancer are strongly advised to speak with their healthcare providers. Doctors can help women assess their personal risks and may recommend early screening protocols at a different frequency for those who are deemed at especially high risk. When early detection occurs, women, even those with triple-negative tumors, are likely to find their prognosis is much more positive.