Breast Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Quick GuideBreast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

What is HER2-positive breast cancer?

For about 20% of women with breast cancer, the cancer cells test positive for HER2. HER2 is a growth-promoting protein located on the surface of some cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancers tend to grow more rapidly and spread more aggressively.

What tests detect HER2?

All patients with invasive breast cancer should have their tumor cells tested for HER2.

There are four tests for HER2. The interpretation of the tests should be discussed with your health-care team. Either immunohistochemistry (IHC) or in-situ hybridization (ISH) testing may be used.

IHC test: This tests shows if there is too much HER2 protein in the cancer cells and is graded 0 to 3.

FISH test: This test evaluates if there are too many copies of the HER2 gene in the cancer cells. This test is either positive or negative.

SPoT-Light HER2 CISH test: This test also evaluates if there are too many copies of the HER2 gene in the cancer cells and is reported as positive or negative.

Inform HER2 Dual ISH test: This test also evaluates if there are too many copies of the HER2 gene in the cancer cells and is reported as positive or negative.

Do symptoms and signs of HER2-positive breast cancer differ from those of HER2-negative breast cancer?

The signs and symptoms for HER2-positive breast cancers are the same as for HER2-negative breast cancers, except for the fact that HER2-positive cancers grow faster and are more likely to spread.

What are therapies for HER2-positive breast cancers?

All therapy needs to be evaluated by your health-care team and guided in response to all test results available and the specific circumstances of your cancer.

There are targeted therapies for HER2-positive breast cancers; a number of drugs are available to target this protein:

  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin): a monoclonal antibody given by itself or with chemotherapy to treat HER2-positive breast cancers
  • Pertuzumab (Perjeta): another monoclonal antibody that targets HER2-positive cancers
  • Ado-trastuzumab emtansine or TDM-1 (Kadcyla): a monoclonal antibody that is attached to a chemotherapy drug
  • Lapatinib (Tykerb): a kinase inhibitor usually used in adjunct with chemotherapy or hormone therapy
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/23/2016

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