March is Triple-negative Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It accounts for up to 15% of all breast cancer diagnoses, and is particularly prevalent in women under 40–which is younger than the age most women can access annual mammograms. Triple-negative breast cancer is also more common among Black and Latina women, and advances faster than other forms of breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, “the term triple-negative breast cancer refers to the fact that the cancer cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors (ER or PR) and also don’t make any or too much of the protein called HER2. (The cells test “negative” on all 3 tests.)” Because of this, hormone therapy and targeted HER2 drugs are not effective treatment options, and though triple-negative typically responds well to chemotherapy and other common treatments like surgery and radiation, it has a higher rate of recurrence than other forms of breast cancer.
There are genetic factors that influence the likelihood of developing triple-negative breast cancer–the most common being BRCA1, though recent studies indicate there are at least five genes associated with triple-negative. According to the CDC, 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women has a BRCA gene mutation. While not everyone with these genetic mutations will develop triple-negative or other forms of cancer, understanding risk factors is essential to early detection.
Experts note that healthy lifestyle choices like eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol may reduce risk factors for developing cancer. Though genetic predispositions and family history can’t be changed, understanding these risk factors can inform early detection through genetic testing and mammograms.
You can show your support throughout Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Month by sharing articles about Triple-negative on social media, and letting loved ones know about our Breast Cancer Resource Center, which provides free outreach presentations for social and corporate groups. Contact our Director, Melissa White-McMahon, to learn more!