Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Breast cancer ribbons patterns

Last Friday, I received the sad news that my friends’ thirty-two-year-old daughter had died from breast cancer.  She was battling this disease for the past ten years.

Breast cancer rates in black/African-American women have increased by 20% when compared to those of white women.  The rate of disability and death is 42% higher for this group.  However, the number of diagnosed cases is lower.

There are different subtypes of breast cancers.  One subtype that is problematic for black women is called Triple Negative Breast Cancer.


Understanding Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Estrogen and progesterone are female hormones.  The her-2 gene helps in the growth of healthy cells in the breast. Triple Negative Breast Cancer is diagnosed when these hormones and gene are absent in a breast biopsy (hormone negative).

Many breast cancers are hormone positive and respond well to drugs such as Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors (hormone therapy). Triple negative breast cancer may not respond to hormone therapy, is more aggressive, difficult to treat, may recur and has a poor prognosis.  However, in the early stages, it may respond much better to chemotherapy.

Facts about Triple Negative Breast Cancer

  • Black/African American women are more likely to be diagnosed with this type of cancer than white or Hispanic women.
  • Death rate is higher than other groups of women
  • Tend to be diagnosed at a late stage
  • Have lower survival rates
  • Approximately 30%of breast cancers are Triple Negative
  • Many women are not regularly screened
  • Follow-up may be lacking
  • Limited access to quality treatment




Risks for Triple Negative Breast Cancer:

Persons at risk for Triple Negative Breast Cancer are

  • Younger people – women and men
  • African Americans
  • Hispanics
  • Women with a BRAC 1 mutation BRACA 1& 2
  • Men with a BRCA 2 gene mutation
  • Using birth control pills for one year or more

Important factors that influence outcomes:

  • Early detection and treatment
  • Early prevention strategies
  • Quality and resources of the facility


  • Lumpectomy – removal of the lump
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy


  • Poor during 3-5 year period
  • Does not respond well to treatment
  • Likely to recur

Prevention Strategies:

Black women can make sure that breast cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage by:

  • Getting a yearly mammogram if you are forty years and over and have risk factors
  • Genetic testing for BRCA if there is a family history of breast cancer
  • If your risks factors are high screening should begin earlier
  • Performing monthly breast self-examination
  • Regular breast examinations by a healthcare provider
  • Reporting any concerns to your doctor


National Breast Cancer Awareness Month  -October 2016

Metastatic Breast Cancer Day (MBC) October 17

Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN


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