From the Physician’s Desk … Weekly Blog!
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TRIPLE NEGATIVE BREAST CANCER
Females are VERY vocal. If you were ever in doubt about the strength in numbers and just how vocal females can be regarding a cause of mutual interest … take a look at Breast Cancer. Everyone knows pink = breast cancer.
However, despite the awesome global attention and exposure and the many research underway, there still exist a problem; patients are still not certain of the “labels” that physicians use in describing certain aspect of Breast cancer and are often times terrified by the information found on the internet – especially as it relates to triple negative breast cancer. The questions I am often asked are;
- What are receptors?
- What does “triple negative” breast cancer mean?
- Is “Triple Negative” breast cancer a good or bad thing?
What are receptors? There are currently 3 receptors of interest in Breast Cancer: Estrogen Receptors (ER), Progesterone Receptor (PR) and Herceptin receptors (Her-2-neu)
Receptors are often times describe as, “little antennae’s” on the surface of cells that controls behavior, such as rate of growth, of the cell. Clear as mud? Apologies, that is still “Doctor talk” that would not make sense to my non-medical Mom…so probably not for you either.
Uuhhhmmm….thinking, thinking…Lord Help me here…Hhhmmm. Got it! A bit overly simplified…but,
Think of Breast Cancer Growth being similar to a plant. There are 3 things required to make a plant grow;
Think of each of these components as a receptor, and things that make a cancer grow,
- Soil (Estrogen receptor or ER)
- Water (Progesterone receptor or PR)
- Sun (Her2neu receptor)
When all 3 are present, the Plant grows (cancer grows). We also have the ability to “block” each of these components in hopes of preventing the Cancer from growing.
- If the soil is removed, the plant will be destroyed. (ER+, PR-, Her2Neu-)
- If water is taken away from the plant, it will be destroyed. (ER-, PR+, Her2neu-)
- If Sun exposure is removed, the plant will be destroyed. (ER-, PR-, Her2neu+)
When there are positive receptors, we have available medications that will block the growth of cancer cells in addition to the regular treatment of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Oncologist like this, because there are more options of Medications to use, and the more different types of drugs we have, it is believed that the chance of controlling the cancer, will theoretically improve. You may be familiar with some of these drugs Tamoxifen, Arimidex, Herceptin, etc.,
In Triple Negative Breast Cancer (ER-, PR-, Her2neu-) … The example would be a plant that is not sustained by any identifiable component…yet it is growing; a plant in a dark room, without soil or water available…grows. What is causing it to grow? Other factors that are not hormone receptor related (Well research are ongoing in this area). However, we are still able to offer the same Surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy as for hormone positive tumors…we just lack that “extra arsenal” of hormone/Antibody blockade that we have for positive receptor tumors. For this reason, triple negative breast cancer is sometimes considered more aggressive. BUT, others sees it as a Breast Cancer without the hormone treatment options…3 out of 4 still remains (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy). Glass half empty or half full?
Now that you understand the basics, more will be explored next time! Questions? Let me know!
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Ipsa Scientia Potestas est ——— Knowledge itself is power!
Don’t forget to visit my website … www.LegacyEducators.org
Your Family Friendly Doc … Dr McGann!
See you next week…