Common Treatments for TNBC
Your treatment will be based on whether the cancer has traveled to the lymph nodes near your breast, the size of the main tumor and details of pathology tests such as the tumor grade, which shows how quickly the cancer cells are dividing. With early-stage disease, you are likely to have some type of surgery and chemotherapy. You also may have radiation therapy.
Your doctor will likely recommend some type of surgery, with the goal of removing the cancer from your breast. In lumpectomy, the surgeon removes the tumor plus a rim of healthy tissue around the tumor, called the margin. Usually, radiation therapy is given after lumpectomy.
- You have more than one tumor in the breast
- The cancer is in your skin
- The tumor is in the nipple area
- You had cancer before in the same breast
- You have a very large tumor
- You have calcium deposits, called calcifications, or other abnormal cells over a large area of your breast
In some cases, radiation therapy is also used after mastectomy.
You do not have to have a mastectomy just because you have triple-negative breast cancer. Your surgeon should explain whether mastectomy or lumpectomy is right for you.
Chemotherapy is the most effective systemic, or whole-body, treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. The reason is that chemotherapy works better than other treatments to kill cancer cells that divide quickly, which is very common in triple-negative disease. Chemotherapy also helps prevent breast cancer cells from spreading, or metastasizing, to other parts of the body.
There are many types of chemotherapy. Many are given by vein, but some are available as a pill. Chemotherapy can also be given before surgery as neoadjuvant treatment, or after surgery as adjuvant treatment, depending on your situation. Your doctor will help you understand your options to make the best decision for you.
Radiation is a local therapy that kills any cancer cells left after surgery in the area where the breast cancer was found. Those areas may be in your breast or chest wall, with or without the nearby lymph nodes. Radiation therapy helps protect you from the breast cancer coming back in the treated areas, also called local recurrence.
If you had lumpectomy you will need radiation therapy to kill any cancer cells left in the breast and sometimes in the armpit. Radiation may also be used after a mastectomy if your surgeon found cancer close to the chest wall or in your lymph nodes.