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 surgeryinfo-icon, with the goal of removing the cancer from your breast. In lumpectomy, the surgeoninfo-icon removes the tumorinfo-icon plus a rim of healthy tissueinfo-icon around the tumor, called the margininfo-icon. Usually, radiation therapy is given after lumpectomyinfo-icon

Your doctor could also recommend mastectomy, or removal of the entire breast. Mastectomyinfo-icon may be recommended if:

  • You have more than one tumor in the breast
  • The cancer is in your skin
  • The tumor is in the nippleinfo-icon area
  • You had cancer before in the same breast
  • You have a very large tumor
  • You have calcium deposits, called calcifications, or other abnormalinfo-icon 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 cancerinfo-icon. Your surgeon should explain whether mastectomy or lumpectomy is right for you.


Chemotherapyinfo-icon is the most effective systemicinfo-icon, or whole-body, treatment for triple-negative breast cancerinfo-icon. 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 veininfo-icon, but some are available as a pill. Chemotherapy can also be given before surgeryinfo-icon 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 therapyinfo-icon that kills any cancer cells left after surgeryinfo-icon in the area where the breast cancer was found. Those areas may be in your breast or chest wallinfo-icon, with or without the nearby lymphinfo-icon nodes. Radiation therapyinfo-icon helps protect you from the breast cancer coming back in the treated areas, also called local recurrenceinfo-icon.

Radiationinfo-icon is usually given from outside your body by an external beam. It can be given inside the body in some circumstances. 

If you had lumpectomyinfo-icon 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 mastectomyinfo-icon if your surgeoninfo-icon found cancer close to the chest wall or in your lymph nodes. 


April 10, 2018