Surgery is sometimes recommended to treat triple negative breast cancer, which occurs when cancerous tumors or masses of the breast test negative for hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2), estrogen receptors (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR). An aggressive form of breast cancer that comprises between 10 and 20 percent of all cases, triple negative breast cancer is unique in that it does not respond to hormonal therapies that target HER-2, a common form of treatment for other types of breast cancer. However, surgical procedures, radiation therapy and chemotherapy can still be viable options, and many patients benefit from a combination of all three.
Even though triple negative breast cancer tends to be aggressive, there is currently no recommendation that patients with this condition should be treated any more aggressively than patients with other types of breast cancer. For instance, a mastectomy wouldn’t automatically be advised for the sole reason that a patient’s cancer tests negative for HER-2, ER and PR if a less complex lumpectomy is determined to be adequate. In fact, some studies suggest that triple negative breast cancer responds very well to chemotherapy, making it particularly suitable for medical management prior to surgery. With that said, many patients choose to pursue a combination of therapies for a more comprehensive approach.
Depending on a patient’s needs, the following types of triple negative breast cancer surgery may be recommended:
- Lumpectomy – By removing only the tumor and a small amount of surrounding healthy tissue, a surgeon can sometimes conserve some of the patient’s breast tissue.
- Mastectomy – A surgeon removes all affected breast tissue (in many cases, the muscles underlying the breast remain intact).
- Axillary lymph node dissection – Performed concurrently with a procedure to address a primary tumor, lymph node removal may be advised if cancer is confirmed or suspected to have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Moffitt Cancer Center has earned a stellar reputation as a leader in the surgical treatment of all types of breast cancer. We’re a high-volume cancer center and our breast surgeons have achieved a level of expertise that far exceeds that of most other providers. Additionally, as the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, Moffitt is renowned and respected for its groundbreaking research discoveries and promising clinical trials. Our scientists and clinicians continue to perform encouraging studies regarding chemotherapy for triple negative breast cancer treatment, and in doing so, we provide hope for current and future patients.