Triple negative breast cancer is a rare type of breast cancer.
Many breast cancers have receptors on the surface of the cancer cells for the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, and less commonly for a protein called HER2. These receptors can stimulate the cancer to grow. After a biopsy or surgery, the tissue that is removed is tested for the receptors.
If you have a breast cancer that doesn’t have any oestrogen, progesterone or HER2 receptors, this is called triple negative breast cancer.
Triple negative breast cancer is found in about 1 in 5 women with breast cancer (15 to 20%). It occurs more commonly in women under the age of 40 and in black women.
Your doctor will use the information about the receptors to help plan your treatment. Women who have breast cancer with hormone receptors are prescribed hormonal treatments, such as tamoxifen or anastrozole. Women with breast cancers that have high levels of HER2 receptors are given a drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin®).
Women with triple negative breast cancer don’t benefit from treatment with hormonal therapy or the targeted therapy drug Herceptin. Chemotherapy is more effective for women with triple negative breast cancer.
Basal cell breast cancer
The term basal cell breast cancer is often linked with triple negative breast cancer. It is a type of breast cancer that is identified when the cancer cells are examined under the microscope. Basal cancers are usually triple negative. And most triple negative breast cancers are basal cell cancers.