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Answers for Patients with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)

Navigate Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)

Understanding TNBC Cancer

Cancer Risks, Causes, and Fuels 

Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis

Metastasis, Spread, and Staging

Prognosis and Survival Rates

Symptoms and Skin Concerns

Hear From TNBC Patients

What is Triple Negative (TNBC) Cancer? 

Triple Negative Breast Cancer refers to a subtype of breast cancer where the tumor cells lack all three receptors commonly found in other breast cancers—these are estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). These receptor statuses are typically used to guide treatment, meaning TNBC requires a different therapeutic approach due to their absence.

What Does “Triple Negative” Mean for Breast Cancer?

When breast cancer is classified as “triple negative,” it signifies that the cancer does not respond to hormonal therapy or medicines that target (HER2) receptors. This is because the cancerous cells do not have the three respective receptors that such treatments normally target.

How Common is Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Triple Negative Breast Cancer accounts for about 10-15% of all breast cancer diagnoses. This subtype is less common than other forms of breast cancer but tends to be more aggressive and has a higher risk of recurrence, especially within the first 3-5 years after treatment.

At Sunridge Medical, our commitment is to provide patients with comprehensive information and options for managing their condition. Should you have any further inquiries regarding TNBC or other health concerns, please consult with one of our physicians and speak to our Patient Care Team at 1-800-923-7878.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer Risks, Causes and Fuels


How Do You Get Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Cancer is a complex, multifactorial disease, and while several risk factors have been identified, there is no singular way to “get” cancer. For TNBC, genetic predisposition can be a factor, as can other lifestyle and environmental elements. A comprehensive, well-balanced approach to health, including regular screenings and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, can help reduce the risk of not only TNBC but various other diseases as well.

Is Triple Negative Breast Cancer the Worst Cancer You Can Get?

While it’s not accurate to label any cancer as the “worst,” Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is known to be a more aggressive form of breast cancer with fewer targeted treatment options currently available. It tends to grow and spread faster than other types of breast cancer, leading to a perception that it is particularly challenging. However, ‘worst’ is a subjective term and outcomes can vary based on a variety of factors including the stage at diagnosis and overall health.

Is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Genetic?

Triple Negative Breast Cancer is not generally considered genetic; however, a subset of patients with TNBC carry inherited gene mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, which can increase an individual’s risk of developing it. Therefore, it is important for patients with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer to consider genetic testing.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Be Hereditary?

Genetic susceptibility plays a significant role in some cases of TNBC. Women with a BRCA1 mutation are at a higher risk of developing TNBC, and in those cases, the disease is more likely to occur at a younger age. While not all Triple Negative Breast Cancer is hereditary, understanding your family history and considering genetic testing can be important for tailored cancer management and potential preventive measures.

Is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Hereditary?

Although Triple-Negative Breast Cancer is not inherently hereditary, mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which can be inherited from one’s parents, are linked to a higher risk of developing TNBC. Therefore, it can be hereditary in cases where these genetic mutations are present. Patients with a family history of breast cancer, particularly TNBC, should discuss genetic testing with their healthcare provider for a more accurate assessment of their risk.

What Fuels Triple-Negative Breast Cancer?

The growth and spread of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer are not fueled by estrogen, progesterone, or (HER2) receptors, hence why it does not respond to hormonal therapies. The absence of these receptors leads researchers to investigate other pathways and factors that might contribute to the development and growth of TNBC. Factors such as genetic mutations, younger age, ethnicity, obesity, environmental factors, and high tumor grade are associated with TNBC.

What Causes Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

The exact causes of Triple Negative Breast Cancer is not fully understood. However, certain risk factors have been identified, including inherited genetic mutations (particularly BRCA1 and BRCA2), hormonal factors, prevalence in younger women and specific ethnic groups, obesity, and exposure to certain environmental toxins. Researchers continue to explore how these factors might contribute to the development of TNBC.

Is Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) Ever Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

DCIS is a non-invasive cancer that starts in the milk ducts and is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. It’s important to note that DCIS can become invasive, including invasive Triple Negative Breast Cancer. While most DCIS cases are not triple negative, a fraction develops into TNBC, highlighting the need for vigilant follow-up care and monitoring.

Can Lobular Breast Cancer Be Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Lobular breast cancer arises in the lobules, or the milk-producing glands, and can be either invasive or in situ. While TNBC is more frequently associated with ductal carcinoma (85-90% of all breast cancers), lobular breast cancer can also present as TNBC, although less often. This underscores the diversity within TNBC and the need for distinct approaches to diagnosis and treatment.

Can Pregnancy Cause Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Pregnancy-related breast cancer is a complex field. While being pregnant is not a direct cause of TNBC, hormonal changes during pregnancy can contribute to the development or progression of breast cancer. Research is ongoing to understand the specifics, but at this time, no definitive link has been established between pregnancy and a higher risk of Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

Does Smoking Cause Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Smoking has been linked to numerous cancers, primarily lung cancer. However, research about the link between smoking and breast cancer, especially TNBC, is less clear-cut. While no direct causation has been established, smoking is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and it’s advisable to avoid smoking as part of a general healthy lifestyle that may also reduce cancer risk.

Can Stress Cause Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

The relationship between stress and cancer, including TNBC, is a topic of ongoing research. Chronic stress is associated with physiological changes that can affect the body’s immune response, potentially influencing cancer development or progression. Stress-reduction techniques, combined with standard cancer care, are often recommended to enhance overall well-being for patients diagnosed with TNBC.

Can Sun Exposure Cause Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Sun exposure is a well-known risk factor for skin cancer, but its association with breast cancer, including TNBC, is still not fully understood. While a lack of vitamin D, which is synthesized in the body upon sun exposure, has been suggested as a potential risk factor for breast cancer, direct causation has not been established. Balancing sun exposure with appropriate protection against skin damage with UVA and UVB sunscreens is crucial for good health.

Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Be Misdiagnosed?

Yes, TNBC can sometimes be misdiagnosed, particularly in its initial stages. Call our Patient Care Team at 1-800-923-7878 to schedule with Sunridge Medical. This type of breast cancer is known for being aggressive and may share characteristics with other subtypes, which poses a challenge in accurate diagnosis. Misdiagnosis can occur due to various reasons such as:

  1. Overlapping features with other cancers that lead to difficulty in distinguishing TNBC from other subtypes.
  2. Suboptimal biopsy techniques or sample errors that may not accurately represent the tumor’s pathology.
  3. Interpretation errors during pathological examination where hormone receptor status might be misclassified.
  4. Insufficient tumor markers or unclear clinical presentations that create diagnostic uncertainty.

It is critical that the diagnosis of TNBC is confirmed through comprehensive pathologic evaluation including immunohistochemical staining for estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor progesterone receptors (PR), and (HER2)/neu, along with a detailed medical history and appropriate imaging studies. If there is a concern about the accuracy of your diagnosis, it is always prudent to pursue a second opinion.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Become Estrogen Positive?

TNBC is characterized by the lack of estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and (HER2) protein. It is highly unlikely for TNBC to convert into an estrogen receptor-positive status. TNBC‘s biological behavior is defined by the absence of these receptors, and this typically remains consistent over the course of the disease.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Change to Positive?

The defining trait of TNBC is the absence of three key receptors—hence the term “triple-negative.” This particular profile means that TNBC doesn’t typically “change” to positive for (ER), progesterone receptors (PR), or (HER2) status over time. Treatment responses and patterns of recurrence for TNBC are more closely associated with the unique molecular and genetic characteristics of the cancer rather than switching to another receptor status.

Can I Get a Second Opinion of My TNBC Cancer?

Absolutely. A second opinion can offer you peace of mind and confirm the diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. In matters of health, and particularly with something as serious as TNBC, it’s important to feel confident in your care approach. Gathering insights from another oncologist or a specialist center familiar with TNBC can ensure you have considered all perspectives and treatment options. At Sunridge Medical, we welcome patients seeking a second opinion, and we’re dedicated to providing thorough evaluations to inform your treatment decisions.  Call our Patient Care Team to set an appointment for a second opinion at 1-800-923-7878.

Remember, it’s important to consult with healthcare professionals if you have been diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer or if you have any concerns about your diagnosis. An accurate and timely diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment and improved outcomes.

Metastasis and the Spread of Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancer is a particularly aggressive type of cancer that lacks the three receptors commonly found in breast cancers—estrogen, progesterone, and (HER2). Metastatic refers to the cancer having spread from its original region to other parts of the body. Given its nature, this type of breast cancer does not respond to typical hormone therapies or drugs targeting (HER2), and as a result, requires more complex treatment strategies.

Where Does Triple Negative Breast Cancer Spread?

Triple negative breast cancer can spread to any part of the body, but common areas include the lungs, liver, brain, and bones. The spread of cancer, known as metastasis, is a serious complication that can make treatment and management more difficult.

Does Triple Negative Breast Cancer Always Come Back?

While Triple Negative Breast Cancer does have a higher risk of recurrence within the first few years following treatment, it does not always recur. The exact risk depends on various factors, including the stage at which the cancer was diagnosed and the treatments received.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Come Back After Mastectomy?

Although a mastectomy significantly reduces the local recurrence of breast cancer, it does not completely eliminate the risk. Triple negative breast cancer may recur elsewhere in the body, even after a mastectomy. Recurrence risk is influenced by whether the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body before the mastectomy.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Spread?

Yes, like other forms of cancer, Triple Negative Breast Cancer has the potential to spread. This can happen if cancer cells break away from the original tumor and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Spread to the Bones?

Yes, Triple Negative Breast Cancer TNBC can metastasize to the bones. This process, referred to as bone metastasis, is one of the more frequent pathways by which breast cancer can spread. Patients experiencing bone metastasis may encounter symptoms including persistent bone pain, an increased susceptibility to fractures, and elevated calcium levels that can lead to further health complications.

Patients should report any new or unusual symptoms to their healthcare provider as soon as possible for evaluation. Bone scans or other imaging technologies may be utilized to identify metastases. Treatments may be prescribed to manage symptoms and prevent complications.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Spread to the Brain?

Triple-negative breast cancer has the potential to spread to the brain, which is known as brain metastasis. Though not as common compared with other subtypes of breast cancer, TNBC’s ability to spread to the brain is a significant concern due to the aggressiveness associated with TNBC.

Symptoms of brain metastasis might include persistent headaches, seizures, changes in vision, difficulty with balance, and alterations in cognitive or behavioral functions. It’s important for patients to inform their healthcare provider about any neurological symptoms to initiate appropriate diagnostic testing and treatment modalities as soon as possible.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Spread to the Heart?

Metastatic spread of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) to the heart itself is extremely rare. While TNBC can spread through the bloodstream to various distant organs, direct metastasis to the heart is not common. However, breast cancer and its treatments can indirectly affect heart health. For instance, some cancer therapies may have an adverse impact on cardiovascular functioning, so it is essential for patients to discuss potential risks and management strategies with their healthcare team.

Regularly scheduled monitoring and comprehensive care that addresses all aspects of the patient’s health, including heart health, are integral parts of a thorough cancer treatment plan. Patients should stay vigilant regarding any cardiovascular symptoms and communicate openly with their healthcare provider to ensure the best possible outcomes.


Prognosis and Survival Rates of Triple Negative Breast Cancer


Can you Survive Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Yes, survival is achievable for triple-negative breast cancer. Many women survive and thrive post-diagnosis and treatment, particularly when the cancer is detected and treated early. Ongoing research is also leading to new therapies that offer hope for even better outcomes.

Does Triple Negative Breast Cancer Always Return?

Triple-negative breast cancer does have a higher likelihood of recurrence within the first few years after treatment. However, it does not always return. Many patients do not experience a recurrence and maintain long-term remission. Adhering to a regular follow-up care schedule with healthcare professionals is important to monitor for any signs of recurrence and to address them promptly if they occur.

Please note, if you have been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, or are seeking information for someone who is, it is critical to speak directly with a healthcare provider. You can reach our Patient Care Team at 800-923-7878. They can offer the most accurate and personalized guidance tailored to your specific medical case. Sunridge Medical is committed to providing up-to-date and comprehensive care for our patients with TNBC.

Can You Get Pregnant After Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Fertility Following Triple Negative Breast Cancer Treatment:

One common concern for women who have been treated for Triple Negative Breast Cancer is whether they can become pregnant after their treatment is complete. It’s important to understand the potential impact that cancer treatment can have on fertility and the options that might be available.

Fertility Preservation Options:

Before undergoing treatment for breast cancer, patients may consider fertility preservation. Techniques such as egg or embryo freezing can safeguard reproductive cells for later use. This option is something to discuss with a healthcare provider before starting cancer treatments which can sometimes affect fertility.

Ovarian Suppression Therapy:

During cancer treatment, some patients may choose ovarian suppression therapy, which aims to protect the ovaries and may preserve fertility. This process generally involves medication to temporarily suppress ovarian function, potentially defending it from the effects of chemotherapy.

Alternative Options for Parenthood:

For those who cannot conceive after treatment or are at risk of complications from pregnancy, there are other paths to parenthood to consider, like adoption. Each option comes with its considerations and personal impact, and it should be discussed thoroughly with a healthcare provider.

Consulting a Fertility Specialist:

It’s critical for patients who have undergone treatment for Triple Negative Breast Cancer and wish to conceive to consult with a fertility specialist. This professional can offer tailored advice based on their medical history, treatment, and personal wishes, as well as the potential risks involved.

If you’re a survivor of Triple Negative Breast Cancer and considering pregnancy, please consult with your doctor or a fertility specialist to discuss the best course of action for your individual situation.

Can You Live with Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

TNBC is known for being a more aggressive form of breast cancer with fewer targeted medicines. However, it is a misconception that living with and beyond this diagnosis isn’t possible. With effective treatment and ongoing research, prospects for patients with Triple Negative Breast Cancer continue to improve.

Patients diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer should engage with their healthcare providers to understand the specific aspects of their condition and the treatments available to them. Survival rates for Triple Negative Breast Cancer, like many other cancers, tend to be higher with early detection and treatment.

Continued research is also making way for new treatments and therapies that are improving outcomes for women with this type of breast cancer.

The road following a diagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer can undoubtedly be challenging, yet many women do indeed live with and beyond their diagnosis, especially as treatments advance and become more effective.

Remember that each person’s case is different, and ongoing follow-up care and monitoring are crucial. Support groups and counseling services can also be beneficial in managing life with and after breast cancer.

For a detailed understanding of your prognosis and living with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, a conversation with your Sunridge Medical team will work to provide you with personalized information about your condition and long-term management strategies.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Recur After 5 Years?

While the highest risk of recurrence for Triple Negative Breast Cancer occurs within the first 5 years after completing treatment, patients must be mindful that recurrence can occur even after this period. Several factors contribute to the risk of recurrence, including how advanced the cancer was when it was first discovered, how well the body responded to treatment and individual health characteristics. To effectively monitor for recurrence, it’s vital to continue regular follow-up appointments and screenings as recommended by your oncology team. If you have concerns about your personal risk, please discuss them with your healthcare provider for tailored advice and strategies for long-term monitoring.

Can Triple Negative Breast Cancer Patients Live 10 Years?

Triple negative breast cancer presents a diverse range of outcomes, and survival rates can be influenced by many factors like diagnosis stage, patient age, overall health, and response to therapy. Thanks to ongoing advancements in cancer treatment and more aggressive therapeutic strategies, many patients with Triple Negative Breast Cancer do live beyond 10 years post-diagnosis. Early detection and personalized treatment plans play significant roles in achieving long-term survival. Nevertheless, it is crucial to understand that each patient’s experience is unique and continuous medical follow-up is essential to manage health effectively and detect any changes early. Our team at Sunridge Medical is dedicated to providing comprehensive care and support for all our patients throughout their cancer treatment and survivorship.

Symptoms of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) and Skin Concerns


What does Triple Negative Breast Cancer Look Like?

Triple Negative Breast Cancer does not have a unique physical appearance that differentiates it from other types of breast cancer when observed externally. It is characterized by the absence of estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors progesterone receptors (PR), and the (HER2) protein on the cancer cells. These traits mean it is frequently more aggressive and challenging to treat than other breast cancer types, but these differences are at a molecular level rather than a visual one. The outward visible symptoms of breast cancer like lumps, changes in breast size or shape, dimpling or puckering of the skin, nipple retraction, or skin irritation can be similar across various breast cancer types, including TNBC.

Why Does TNBC Cause Skin Problems?

Skin issues in patients with Triple Negative Breast Cancer can arise from multiple sources:

  • Direct Invasion: TNBC can aggressively spread to skin tissue, causing localized changes such as skin nodules, redness, and even ulceration.
  • Treatment Side Effects: Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can manifest side effects including skin dryness, rashes, itching, and photosensitivity, which can significantly affect skin health.
  • Immunosuppression: Aggressive cancers like TNBC can weaken the immune system, increasing vulnerability to skin infections and impeding wound healing.
  • Metabolic Impact: The metabolic changes associated with cancer can affect the skin’s nourishment, hydration, elasticity, and overall ability to recover from damage.

What Can Be Done to Help with the Skin Problems of TNBC?

Managing skin issues related to TNBC involves a multi-faceted approach:

  • Medical Management: Work with your healthcare team to address skin infections proactively and manage any drug reactions or skin side effects resulting from cancer treatments.
  • Nutritional Support: Adequate nutrition supports skin health. Increase intake of foods high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that promote skin healing. Stay hydrated.
  • Wound Care: Proper care for any wounds, using sterile techniques and appropriate dressings, is critical in facilitating skin healing and preventing infections.
  • Specialized Dermatologic Interventions: In some cases, dermatologists may prescribe medicated creams, ointments, or procedures to manage specific skin issues.

It is essential to communicate regularly with your healthcare provider about any new or worsening skin problems so they can propose a plan that accommodates your individual needs throughout your treatment for TNBC. If you need additional care, please call Sunridge Medical at 1-800-923-7878.

Hear From Our Patients

Sueann video banner
In this three part series, Sue Ann describes how she just knew in her heart that conventional medicine was not the best choice for her to fully heal from her breast cancer and how that decision would receive criticism from conventional doctors and friends alike. Today, 7 years later, she lives to tell about it and is compelled to tell her story in hopes of helping others in the fight.

Sue Ann, Phoenix, Arizona

Rosalyn video banner
After working in a hospital for 15 years as an oncology nurse and being diagnosed with stage 4 Breast Cancer, Roslyn new chemotherapy was not the answer for her. “The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step”…she got in her car with her three children and husband and made the journey from New York to Sunridge Medical in Arizona. Within three weeks of her first treatment, the tumor started to change.

Roslyn, New York



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