What is HER2-positive breast cancer?
- Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer
- HER2-negative cancer or hormone-receptive breast cancer (either estrogen-receptive or progesterone-receptive cancer)
The HER2 protein is a kind of receptor found on the surface of breast cells. It is involved in the normal growth of breast cells. There is a HER2 gene that controls the production of the HER2 protein. When there is a defect in this gene, it makes more than the required copies of the HER2 protein. Excess of HER2 protein results in overgrowth of breast cells, giving rise to HER2-positive cancer.
When you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, doctors check if you have HER2-positive breast cancer or HER2-negative cancer. The type of breast cancer is diagnosed based on tests that check for the presence of HER2 protein in the breast tissue. If the test is positive, it means you have HER2-positive cancer, and if the test results are negative, it means you have HER2-negative cancer.
About one in five women with breast cancer have HER2-positive breast cancer.
What is the treatment for HER2-positive cancer?
Treatment of HER2-positive cancer will depend on your overall health, age and specific needs. Doctors will discuss various cancer treatment options, including medications, with you and come up with a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
The typical treatment for HER2-positive cancer includes
- Neoadjuvant therapy: This involves administering medications to reduce tumor size before the removal of the breast cancer tissue with surgery. This typically includes chemotherapy and other biologicals.
- Breast-conserving surgery (removal of only the cancerous breast tissue)
- Mastectomy (removal of the whole breast that contains cancer)
- Adjuvant therapy: This may be either medications or radiation therapy given after surgery to destroy the remaining cancer cells, if any. The medications may be the ones used in chemotherapy and targeted therapy.
What are chemotherapy and targeted therapy in HER2-positive breast cancer?
Chemotherapy involves the use of anticancer medications that kill cancer cells present in any part of the body. The medications can be given in the form of intravenous (IV) therapy or as oral pills. It is given in cycles of two to three weeks for three to six months. The total period and the type of medications depend on how well you tolerate the therapy. There is a gap between two cycles to recover from the chemotherapy.
Targeted therapy in HER2-positive cancer refers to the drugs directed at HER-2 proteins or receptors. Hence, it is also known as HER2-directed therapy. The therapy is typically initiated after the course of chemotherapy is completed.
Is chemotherapy necessary for HER2-positive breast cancer?
Chemotherapy is typically used to shrink a tumor before it is removed from the breast with surgery. This is especially necessary when
- The tumor is so large that it cannot be removed by surgery. Once the tumor regresses with chemotherapy, it becomes easier for doctors to remove it without the risk of spreading to adjacent organs.
- Doctors want to check how well a particular medication works on your breast cancer. This helps them decide whether to continue the same drug after surgery or switch to another medication in case the previous one does not work.
Everyone’s breast cancer varies at the molecular level. The type of medications your oncology team prescribes will depend on what results are expected out of your treatment and the features of your cancer.
American Cancer Society
Top Is Chemo Necessary for HER2 Positive Related Articles
Breast cancer is an invasive tumor that develops in the mammary gland. Breast cancer is detected via mammograms, breast self-examination (BSE), biopsy, and specialized testing on breast cancer tissue. Treatment of breast cancer may involve surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Breast cancer risk may be lowered by managing controllable risk factors.
What you should know about breast cancer
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.
- One in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer.
- There are many types of breast cancer that differ in their capability of spreading (metastasize) to other body tissues.
- The causes of breast cancer are unknown, although medical professionals have identified a number of risk factors.
- There are 11 common types of breast cancer and 4 uncommon types of breast cancer.
- Breast cancer early signs and symptoms include
- a lump in the breast or armpit,
- bloody nipple discharge,
- inverted nipple,
- orange-peel texture or dimpling of the breast's skin (peau d'orange),
- breast pain or sore nipple,
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpit, and
- a change in the size or shape of the breast or nipple.
- Breast cancer can also be symptom free, which makes following national screening recommendations an important practice.
- Breast cancer is diagnosed during a physical exam, by a self-exam of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound testing, and biopsy.
- Treatment of breast cancer depends on the type of cancer and its stage (0-IV) and may involve surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
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What Should I Know About Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer of American women, but it can also occur in men. Every year in the U.S., there are over 266,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer. A woman has a risk of one in eight for developing breast cancer at some point during her lifetime.
HER2-Positive Breast CancerIn about 10%-20% of breast cancers, the cancer cells test positive for HER2, sometimes referred to as the HER2/neu protein. 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 than breast cancers that are HER2-negative. Doctors do not know what specifically causes some breast cancers to express this protein while others do not.
Breast Cancer TreatmentBreast cancer treatments depend upon the type of breast cancer that is present as well as the stage (extent of spread) of the tumor. Treatment for early breast cancer typically involves surgery to remove the tumor. After surgery, medical professionals may administer radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.
Can HER2-Positive Breast Cancer Be Cured?HER2-positive breast cancer is associated with cancer cells that have extra copies of the HER2 gene and produce extra HER2 receptor proteins. With recent advances in medicine, it is considered that HER2-positive breast cancer is curable.
What Is Chemotherapy?Chemotherapy is an aggressive cancer treatment that uses powerful drugs to kill fast-growing cancer cells. It can be used alone or in combination with other therapies, such as surgery, radiation, or hormonal therapy. While surgery and radiation therapy are designed to affect only the target site, chemotherapy affects the entire body. Sometimes, it can affect healthy cells as well, resulting in various side effects.
Genetic Testing for Breast CancerIntensive genetic counseling is required before undergoing genetic tests for breast cancer. During this educational counseling session, the health care provider can fully explain the benefits and risks of genetic testing and answer any questions you may have. You will also be required to sign a consent form prior to participating in any genetic tests. The form is an agreement between you and your doctor, showing that you have discussed the test and how its results might affect your family.
Breast Cancer Treatment by Stage
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- hormone therapy,
- radiation therapy,
- HER2-targeted therapy,
- neoadjuvant therapy, and
- adjuvant therapy.
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What Are the Four Types of Breast Cancer?The four most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, lobular carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, invasive lobular carcinoma. The designations are based on the locations of the tumors, whether they have spread and where they have spread to.