I have Triple Positive Cancer. That means my cancer expresses all three of the commonly tested for receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor, and the Her2 protein. So what would be the opposite of Triple Positive? Triple Negative, which means a subtype that lacks the three receptors. Since there is no known receptor to target, there aren’t as many treatment options as there are with other subtypes. Triple Negative disproportionally affects young women, which you think would move it higher up the priority chain as far as finding treatments, but unfortunately that has not been the case. While Her2 positive and hormone positive subtypes have benefited from progress in finding targeted and hormonal therapies, TN has not had the same luck, although there are new therapies coming out like PARP inhibitors (IMO, the most promising development but unfortunately only benefitting those who have the BRCA mutation).
Why should you care about Triple Negative breast cancer?
1) Because it disproportionately affects young women. In Swaziland, one of the reasons HIV was seen as such a public health crisis is because, it very often affected young people. When young people are targeted by a disease, it affects society as a whole by targeting productive, employable workers and parents or would-be parents. When young people get cancer, we should have the same sort of investment as when they get HIV.
2) Because it makes up 15-20 percent of all breast cancer. Since 1/8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime, it is likely you will know someone with TNBC at some point.
3) Because cancer can mutate. If you are a survivor of some other type of subtype of cancer, guess what? Your cancer could lose it’s receptors and mutate to TN. (And the opposite can happen as well – TN can mutate to hormone or Her2 positive.)
4) Because it is especially aggressive. And because of the lack of targeted options, when progression happens, it’s a much bigger deal than in other subtypes. And early detection is certainly not a cure. I know of a young women in one of my online groups that passed away last summer. She started out with a 5 MILLIMETER tumor.
6) Because we are sick of losing friends. One of the first young women I “met” online back in 2014 had TNBC. She was first diagnosed at the age of 28 and was gone two years later. Since then, I’ve seen the same scenario play out countless times – like this blogger who I followed and admired greatly back in the spring and summer of 2015. She was dead a year after her initial diagnosis, despite doing every treatment under the sun. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of getting the sinking feeling after seeing a FB update or getting a text message. I just want my friends to stop dying.