The most effective way to detect breast cancer is by mammography, along with regular clinical breast exams by your healthcare provider. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screening mammograms starting at age 40. (Cancer.org).
If an abnormality or change in the breast tissue is found, it should be brought to your healthcare providers attention at the time of discovery. Several tests help distinguish whether the abnormality is cancerous. Various changes in the breast can raise suspicion, but don’t necessarily constitute cancer. During a mammogram, the doctor looks mostly for calcifications, cysts, changes in breast density, and tumors (American Cancer Society). If a tumor is found, several tests help distinguish a benign (non-cancerous) tumor from a malignant (cancerous) tumor. Some of these tests are done after the initial biopsy (removal of tissue sample for testing), others in the days and weeks after lumpectomy or mastectomy (removal of the tumor or breast). The results of these tests are included in what is called a pathology report.
The pathology report consists of all lab reports and tests performed and provides information needed to make the best treatment choices for a particular diagnosis, such as the size and appearance of the cancer, how quickly it grows, any signs of spread to nearby healthy tissues, and whether certain things inside the body, such as hormones or genetic mutations, are factors in the cancer’s growth and development.
If the pathology report says that the breast cancer cells tested negative for estrogen receptors (ER‑), progesterone receptors (PR‑), and HER2 (HER2‑), then the patient is given a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis (Breastcancer.org).
Following diagnosis, triple-negative breast cancer, just like other breast cancers, is assigned a “stage.” There are two types of systems that doctors generally use in identifying triple-negative breast cancer stages. One system determines how invasive the cancer is on a scale of 0 through 4 — with stage 0 describing non-invasive cancers that remain within their original location and stage 4 describing invasive cancers that have spread beyond the original tumor.
Another staging system is called TNM (Tumor, Node, Metastasis), which doctors use to provide more details about how the cancer looks and behaves. The TNM system is based on three characteristics: size, lymph node involvement, and whether the cancer has metastasized, or moved beyond the original tumor. Once the doctor knows both the level of invasiveness and TNM characteristics, he or she can use them to assign a stage to the cancer.
If you have questions about your breast cancer stage, talk to your doctor who can guide you through your specific diagnosis.
Doctors are conducting the METRIC Study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of glembatumumab vedotin (CDX-011) in patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. More than 250 patients with breast cancer or melanoma have received glembatumumab vedotin in prior research studies. Study results in both types of cancer support further testing of glembatumumab vedotin, particularly in patients with triple-negative breast cancer. If you have been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer that has spread beyond the original tumor, we hope that you will consider learning more about the METRIC Study. To find a study location near you to see if you may qualify, visit clinicaltrials.gov.
The information on this website is provided for educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional.