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Buddy Check 3 (Triple Negative Breast Cancer)

Updated: Tuesday, March 19 2013, 11:01 AM CDT
NATIONAL - Cancer researchers are targeting a growing form of breast cancer called "triple negative."

It affects mainly young African American and Hispanic women, and so far, not much media attention has been focused on triple negative breast cancer, but rising rates of it are bringing it to the forefront of medical research.

Oncologist Tarek Eldawy says triple negative breast cancer is a subgroup of breast cancer identified in the last few years that is a particularly aggressive and bewildering form of cancer.

Among its many characteristics, triple negative is more likely to metastasize; relapse rates in the first three years post treatment are very high. Five-year survival rates tend to be lower than other breast cancers, and triple negative tumors are resistant to drug therapies, so post-chemo, there are no drugs that will help prevent a relapse.

But Eldawy says the news is not all grim.

Eldawy: "Those patients, their cancer cells actually are more sensitive to chemo, so if there's any good news here, that's good news."

Triple negative cells react so well to certain chemotherapies that some researchers are prescribing chemo treatments prior to surgical interventions.

Eldawy: "That's not yet a standard of care, but when they tried that in small studies, up to sixty percent of patients, they had no cancer at time of surgery, means those cancer cells are very sensitive to chemo."

Eldawy's youngest triple negative patient is a 24-year-old mother. He says the treatment raises many issues.

Eldawy: "You have to talk about fertility, you have to talk about sexual dysfunction. You have to think of other complications and long-term complications of the chemo."

Eldawy says because relapse is so common for triple negative patients, he strongly stresses rigorous cancer screenings, self-exams, and genetic testing for survivors and family members.Buddy Check 3 (Triple Negative Breast Cancer)

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Washington Times