Breast cancer, the CDC accounts, is the most frequent specific type of cancer that affects women. The American Cancer Society says about 3 percent of those with breast cancer will pass away. Research on the causes of cancer occurrence to the structure and cellular dynamics of the most discussed kinds, to even discussion on the ways to limit cancer’s expansion to other parts of the body. Commonly unknown, is that there are several types of breast cancer, each with its own origins and susceptibilities. Estrogen and progesterone-receptor breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer. HER2-receptor breast cancer, the Mayo Clinic says, affects 20% of people with breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancer is another frightening type of breast cancer that, the National Foundation of Breast Cancer states, affects about 15% of those with breast cancer.
Estrogen and Progesterone-receptor Breast Cancer
Estrogen and progesterone-based breast cancers are the most common type of breast cancer seen worldwide. These breast cancer types, collectively known as the hormone-receptor breast cancers, are distinct in having the receptors for either estrogen or progesterone present on the cell membrane. These receptors allow the cancer cells to proliferate when receiving the chemical signal. Estrogen is commonly referred to as the main female hormone that plays a role in female sexual development and life cycle. Progesterone is also a hormone found in females, but is used more in the body for regulation during menstruation and pregnancy.
The slow development of this type of breast cancer allows for women who develop estrogen and progesterone-based breast cancers a better chance of survival, compared to other types of breast cancer at a similar stage. Hormone-receptor breast cancers are identified after biopsy and chemical analysis. Hormone-receptor breast cancer is usually treated by directly targeting the hormone receptors and inhibiting cancer metastasis with particular chemical inhibitors if caught early enough.
HER2 Breast Cancer
HER2 breast cancer refers to the type of breast cancer that is distinguished by the HER2 protein receptors found on the cancer cell surface. These HER2 receptors come from a gene within the cells that helps in the increased amount of receptors that are on the breast cancer cell. Due to HER2 protein receptors playing a pivotal role in breast cell duplication, overexpression of HER2 can lead to excessive cell development and multiplication. While less common than Estrogen and progesterone-receptor breast cancers, a significant percentage of those diagnosed with breast cancer will exhibit some traits of HER2 breast cancer.
Several test have been made to identify HER2 breast cancer. This includes the use of fluorescence, chemical signatures, and genome amplification and analysis after biopsy is performed. HER2 breast cancer can be treated with chemicals that inhibit cellular propagation through blocking the HER2 receptors themselves or other growth-inducing receptors when detected early. It is also possible to have all three previously mentioned types of receptor abnormalities within a cancerous breast cell, or none at all.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Triple Negative Breast Cancer, while not as common as estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or HER2 types of breast cancer, is arguably the most severe and terrifying type of breast cancer to be diagnosed with. “Triple negative” means that the breast cancer is “negative,” or not caused by, estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or HER2 receptor overexpression. The question arises then: What is the cause of the breast cancer? And to that question, there are many answers, none being definitive. With the previously mentioned breast cancer types, there are certain receptors that can be targeted to inhibit cellular metastasis. Triple negative breast cancer patients usually have to go straight to chemotherapy due to the lack of ability to fight this unknowable enemy.
Triple negative is considered one of the most difficult cancers to fight if caught too late within a person’s life, but earlier treatment will increase likelihood of survival, similar to that of catching other cancers early enough. To me, this type of breast cancer sticks out the most as my mother, during her late thirties, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Luckily, her cancer was detected early enough that she was able to fight against the disease and continue to be a practicing physician today. It is always important to check for early stages of breast cancer, it is not a good idea to ignore questionable lumps or wait to be examined.
Conclusion: Past, Present, and Future
Our understanding of breast cancer has evolved substantially throughout the years. As we continue to perform research, the more complex breast cancer seems to get and more questions are raised. It is important that proper funding is given to research, diagnosis, and treatment within our healthcare system. I reached out toDr. Donald McCain MD, PhD, FACS, Chief of surgical oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center, who said, “A diagnosis of breast cancer has been radically changed in significance due to our current understanding of tumor biology and the genetics of breast cancer. This allows for more precise treatments as we use biomarker targets and information regarding sensitivity and resistance to chemotherapy treatments. Identifying patients for their appropriate treatment options has resulted in improved outcomes.” Dr. McCain states the importance of current and future understanding in breast cancer and how knowing the type of breast cancer is very important for proper treatment.
“Physicians should continue to apply shared decision making strategies in the management of patients and patients should remain vigilant in following and inquiries regarding their care,” concludes Dr. McCain. He stresses the importance of physicians discussing a patient’s prognosis and the need for active patient involvement in their treatment. We must continue to be vigilant on our understanding of breast cancer.