Hormone Receptors in Advanced Breast Cancer
The hormones in the body that launches you into puberty and control the monthly period can play a role in breast cancer.
Most breast cancers -- about 2 out of every 3 -- are sensitive to the hormones estrogen or progesterone. These tumors have a sort of biological on-off switch called a hormone receptor. Estrogen and progesterone can flip these switches "on" and quicken the cancer cells' growth. Your doctor will test your cancer to see if it has hormone receptors. If it does, she may call it "hormone-receptor positive" or “ER-positive” or “PR-positive.”
For advanced breast cancer, the doctor may want to repeat these tests after a while to see if the cancer has changed. It may respond differently to hormones than before. Test results will help the doctor to find the best treatment at any stage.
Compared with other types of breast cancer, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers, called HR-positive cancers, tend to:
- Grow more slowly
- Respond better to hormone therapy
- Have a better outlook (prognosis)
What Is HER2-Positive Breast Cancer?
About 20% to 25% of breast cancers are HER2-positive. That means they have a certain protein (HER2/neu) that makes cancer cells grow. This kind of cancer tends to be much more aggressive and fast-growing than other kinds of breast cancer, but there are effective treatments that target HER2.
The doctor will test the cancer to find out if it is HER2-positive and also check on whether it has spread and if it's sensitive to hormones.
Researchers aren't sure what causes breast cancer. They think it may be a combination of things, including your genes, your environment, and your lifestyle. Every case is different.
In HER2-positive breast cancer, a gene causes cancer cells to make too much HER2/neu protein. When that happens, cancer cells grow in an out-of-control way.
This only happens in cancer cells. It can happen in other cancers, too -- not just breast cancer.
You can't inherit a bad copy of this gene from a parent or pass it on to your children.
The most common symptom of any type of breast cancer is a lump in your breast that feels different from the area around it.
Other symptoms include:
- Breast swelling or a change in the shape of the breast
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Pain in the breast or nipple
- Redness or thickness of the nipple or breast skin
- Discharge from the nipple (not breast milk)
You may have noticed a difference in your breasts during a self-exam, or you may have had a mammogram that showed the cancer.
Getting a Diagnosis
When you're diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will test for HER2. There are four types of tests for HER2-positive breast cancer.
The IHC test (immunohistochemistry) checks for how much HER2 protein is in a sample of breast cancer tissue.
Three other tests check to see if there are too many HER2 genes in the cancer cells:
- FISH test (fluorescence in-situ hybridization)
- SPOT-Light HER2 CISH test (subtraction probe technology chromogenic in-situ hybridization)
- Inform HER2 Dual ISH test (inform dual in-situ hybridization)
Breast cancers aren't all the same. It's important to find out if your breast cancer is HER2-positive because it makes a difference in how you treat it.
HER2-positive cancer doesn't respond well to just hormone treatment that is used for some breast cancers. But there are drugs that target the HER2 protein and greatly lower the risk of the cancer coming back. These drugs kill cancer cells that are making the HER2 protein. They are called targeted treatments, and in the case in of HER2-positive cancer, they stop or block the HER2 protein from helping cancer cells grow.
Taking Care of Yourself
Having breast cancer can be overwhelming. Remember that you're in control of your treatment decisions and how you live your life.
These tips can help you stay healthy while you get treatment:
- Get the support you need, whether it's information about breast cancer, talking with someone, or practical help with daily tasks. It can all make a huge difference in how you feel. The people in your life will want to help, so let them know what you would like.
- Listen to your body. Exercise can help you feel better, but only when you're up for it.
- If you don’t have much appetite, try eating smaller meals every few hours, rather than big meals.
What to Expect
Although HER2-positive breast cancer tends to grow and spread faster than other kinds of breast cancer, many women respond very well to targeted treatments. Work with your doctor and health care team to develop the best treatment program for you.
Breast cancer of any kind is easier to treat when it is caught early. But even if your breast cancer has spread or has come back, there are still ways to treat it. Each case is different.
(This Blog has been assembled with content help from WebMD. The sole aim of this Blog is to create an awareness among masses about different kinds of Cancer. I am committed to this act because my wife is a Breast Cancer Patient and I want to help / guide the masses to fight against this deadly disease).