National Breast Cancer Coalition

Myth #12: Everyone's breast cancer is the same

FALSE. There are many sub-types of breast cancer and they require different types of treatment.

Different women have different breast cancer types with unique disease characteristics including:

  • the stage
  • the size and grade of the tumor
  • if there is lymph node involvement [nodal status]
  • hormone receptor positive or negative
  • Her2/neu positive or negative

We also know that there are inherited gene mutations that affect breast cancer, such as BRCA 1 and BRCA2 mutations.

Breast cancer treatments have evolved over the years with the development of a range of chemotherapy drugs and therapies that target specific types of known breast cancers. About 25 percent of women with breast cancer are found to overexpress a protein called Her2. Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is a targeted therapy for women with Her 2 positive breast cancer. In addition, nearly four out of five women with breast cancer have hormone receptor (HR) positive cancer, also called estrogen receptor (ER) and/or progesterone receptor (PR) positive. Hormonal therapies may keep these types of cancers from growing, increasing survival and reducing recurrence.

Triple-negative breast cancer is another subtype of breast cancer (called triple negative because it lacks the receptors for estrogen and progesterone, and has normal levels of HER2).

It is important to recognize that just like any other diagnosis, knowing the specific kind of breast cancer one has is important to finding the best treatment.